The Essentials- #15
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
I can't begin to tell you what it is about 80's comedy that I like so much. I felt there was a golden age of great comedy that ended by 1989. This golden age could very well have roots in the 1970's too, but the comedic output of the 1980's was just as essential. The films involving John Candy where some of my favorites. He was an actor who died before his time and whose comedic talents where also before his time. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" was a classic among the genre and still lives up today.
What was interesting about 1980's comedy was that the best examples blended slapstick comedy with grand emotion. Particularly the movies made by late writer and director John Hughes. John Hughes was a comedic movie-making genius. Hughes made us all laugh very hard, but he was also a man who had something to say. With "The Breakfast Club," it dealt with the cruel world of high school popularity, the arrangement of clique's. It studied the effects of certain friend groups and how those groups effect individuals. With "Uncle Buck," we are dealing with a truly dysfunctional family, one which features many participants who don't know they are dysfunctional. These family members have to make decisions about how they will be viewed and it scares them. In "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" we are dealing with kids who are very afraid to grow up, yet it coming faster and faster. They wonder to themselves how they will handle it, and by the end of the film it still not all figured out. In all of Hughes' films, there was always something very humane about them. He spoke directly to us as a society and culture.
In "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," the story is very simple. An advertisement executive (Steve Martin) is trying to get to the New York City airport two days before Thanksgiving. He needs to travel from New York City to Chicago to make it home in time for the holiday. He's got a flight that will take him directly home, so it all seems simple. Except he can't get a cab, the airport is busy, and worst of all the snowstorm in the Midwest delays all flights. The ad exec meets up with a shower curtain holder salesmen (John Candy) and they go on a wacky, hilarious odyssey throughout the American Midwest to get home in time for Turkey Day!
Steve Martin and John Candy had wonderful chemistry. They played off each other so well throughout all of the films comedic scenes. My favorite scene by far is the long stretch where Martin and Candy are driving on the interstate one night. Candy begins dancing to Ray Charles and the scene leads them to drive between two semi trucks...it gets me every time. I love how the landscape of the American Midwest is highlighted in the best possible way in winter. Who said the season had to be warm in order to be beautiful. Most of all, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is a film about how broken people heal. It's film about desperation and stress and how the holidays amplify those emotions. It is also about how two men decide to change for the better, and that is always my favorite part.
If you haven't gotten around to seeing this, it is the best during the holidays. So save until then and cuddle together with family and friends. Although, I must add these need to be adult family members. The film is rated R after all.