Thursday, February 28, 2008

Plains, Trains and Automobiles

What do you get when you throw together two of the eighties biggest comedians, the writer of such hits as "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles", and a cross-country road trip? Well, you get a laugh out loud, heartwarming, and very quotable movie called "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles".
This 1987 classic movie stars Steve Martin as Neil Page, an uptight and somewhat pessimistic executive who wants to be home for Thanksgiving on time; it also stars John Candy as Del Griffith, a kind-hearted and optimistic man who happens to meet Neil when they both vie for a taxi. From then on, the two continue to run into each other and due to bad weather and flight cancellations, they decide to embark on a journey to get Neil home in time for the holidays. On their way, they meet a woman who gave birth to a child that came out sideways, drive on the wrong side of the highway, and spoon each other in a motel. Each of these moments is not only memorable because of the absurdity, but because of John Hughes' dialogue that makes the somewhat unreal situation quite real. The characters feel like they could be people you know; Neil Page could be your uptight and conservative father with a short temper, while Del Griffith is your best friend's cool and understanding dad.
Hughes, who is the writer, director, and producer, incorporates the use of different camera movements and editing to emphasize the comedy and hold the audience's attention in each scene. For example, in the scene in which Neil and Del drive on the wrong side of the highway and are bypassed by two semi-trucks, quick shots are used to hold the audience's attention and to create a thrill in which the audience doesn't know what will happen next. We are shown cuts of Del and Neil, and within these quick cuts are different shots of the men dressed in costume, such as Del dressed as the devil. Another use of a shot for comedic response is when Del and Neil decide to shack up together and have to spend a night in the same bed. The camera pans starting from Del's body and makes its way to Neil, who is spooning with Del. It is truly hilarious and this is helped by the fact that it is filmed with just the right camera movement.
"Planes, Trains and Automobiles" at first glance might seem just like an eighties version of "Superbad" or anything that Will Ferrell makes nowadays. But this movie is mainly about the relationship of Del and Neil, two unlikely friends who bond together and help each other in unexpected ways. John Hughes does a magnificent job of creating funny situations and subtly incorporation the message that friends are what make the hard moments in life tolerable.
The characters seem to grow throughout the movie, and truly learn about what it means to be a true friend. I won't give away the ending, but I will say that it made me smile and my emotions were heightened by the eighties synthetic pop in the background- probably the only thing dating this otherwise timeless film.

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