Most people have experienced the nightmare of travel. A cancelled flight, a dodgy cab driver that takes the scenic route or being stuck in a strange town in a motel you suspect to be a murder hot spot. After making a succession of excellent genre defining teen movies the great filmmaker, John Hughes was ready to take on an adult tale. Hughes took inspiration from a personal ordeal when it took him five days to travel from Chicago to New York. The end product was the incredible Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a road movie that captures all the woes of travel when your heart yearns to be home.
1. John Hughes
Writing from a personal experience Hughes was sharing his misfortune with an audience. Yes the film is entertaining, but there is a sympathetic approach we take to the film as we project our own travelling calamities onto the film. Musical touches from frequent Hughes collaborator, Ira Newborn helped create the goofball feel of the film and there a plenty of fantastic one-liners that pop from the screenplay.
2. John Candy and Steve Martin
Martin was perfect as the family man just trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving and Candy was the loveable goofball. There is a wonderful chemistry between the two as they aggravate each other and find themselves in awkward situations that are hilarious. Two talented comedic actors working together is a joy to watch but they manage to surprise with their dramatic depth. The odd couple formula works so well and there is an endearing friendship that blossoms. In the tender moments outside of the comedy is where a lot of the film’s heart lies. Martin and Candy share emotionally touching scenes that give strength to the purpose of their journey while cutting to the core of each character.
3. The colourful supporting characters
The trip in Planes is filled with so many memorable characters in small roles. Dylan Baker is unforgettable as the tobacco chewing hick who claims his wife is tough because her first baby “came out sideways”. Larry Hankin reeks of con artist as Doobie the taxi driver, Martin Fererro makes a good trade in wrist watches as a motel clerk and Michael McKean cameos as a state trooper. There is also a cameo from Kevin Bacon as a slick young New Yorker you don’t want to race to a cab and Edie McClurg is the car rental representative you don’t want to mess with.
4. The car rental scene
One of the most brutally honest scenes in the film sees Page go head-to-head with a car rental agent (Edie McClurg) over a missing car. The work “fuck” is used 18 times in 60 seconds. Hughes well and truly threw off his teenage label with this scene. The scene allows Page to express rage on behalf on anyone who has had to deal with incompetence from the travel industry. There is a moment to cheer on Page, but as always with these situations it’s the corporate car rental company that has the last laugh.
5. “Why aren’t you going home?” ***SPOILERS***
When you think of massive twists in a film you might think about The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game or Planet of the Apes, but Planes is often forgotten with its big twist. Throughout the film Griffith talks about his wife and there is curiosity surrounding the big trunk he carries around. A lot of the film’s big comedic moments hide the fact that something is not right with Griffith and all is revealed in the final moments of the film (I SAID SPOILERS!). When Page and Griffith part ways there is a moment of reflection where Page realises that his new friend is not going home. The grenade that drops on your tear ducts is when Griffith reveals that his wife passed away eight years prior and he has been alone and without a permanent home ever since. Suddenly, the character’s misunderstood kindness and yearning for company is revealed as a coping mechanism as if he’s still grieving the loss. When Page offers for Griffith to spend Thanksgiving with his family it solidifies their friendship and is a beautiful moment of kindness.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies