Welcome to ESTA’S ECLECTIC CLASSIC CORNER. These are movies that have stood the test of time throughout past decades and made a difference in my life. Films that I could watch over and over and still love them as much as the first viewing. They are like “comfort food” for me. Each week I will be reviewing a classic that I have loved and can’t wait to share my thoughts with you. Please note, there will be some spoilers in these reviews. I will have to share some of my favorite scenes and dialogue to back up my personal reflections. I am who l am because of theatre and movies.
One of my fondest memories as a mom was being able to take my children, Aaron, and Ilisa, to the movie theater. We always had the same vacation times (one of the perks of being a teacher), so every year on Black Friday, we would see a movie or two or three together. In 1987, PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES was the hot ticket. The three of us sat and laughed at the subtle hilarity of Steve Martin and the outrageous zaniness of John Candy. It is a great memory that Aaron still talks about today. Thanksgiving was always a huge holiday for my family. I hosted it every year.
We had our traditions…making the turkey dance before being placed in the oven, setting the huge table the night before, polishing silver, making gobs of deviled eggs, having enough olives for every child’s finger, peeling ten pounds of potatoes, choosing a comfortable outfit, and making sure the Uno cards were ready to play. My mom would always bring the pies, ice cream, and whipped cream. It was a feast for our tummies and our souls. The feeling of being surrounded by those who love you unconditionally was a pull on anyone’s heartstrings. It felt like a magnet holding us as one. The sounds of laughter, giggling moments, and hugs make me smile and allow the tears to gently fall on the now quietness of today. Even though those days are gone, when I watch this film, I am reminded of that need to be “home” for Thanksgiving. It is like releasing a major sigh of contentment, and all the hassles, work, or inconveniences of getting there just melt magically away. It is, without a doubt, a funny, sweet, silly holiday classic.
PLANES, TRAINS, and AUTOMOBILES opens in NYC two days before Thanksgiving. Neal Page (Steve Martin) is trying to get out of the city during rush hour traffic and catch his flight home to Chicago. Flagging down a cab is an art form. It feels like he is the hunter tracking and checking out his competition, deciding when to make his move, eyes casing back and forth, beads of cold sweat popping up on his forehead, and then finally “nailing it.” But Neal is not having a very good day, and he lands on the ground at the winner’s feet (a very young Kevin Bacon.) In the end, they both lose to a streetwise Del (John Candy), who dumps his heavy baggage filled with shower curtain rings into the trunk and heads to the airport. It is foreshadowing, for sure, of what is yet to come.
JOHN Hughes is a very creative writer, producer, and director. He does not ever let PTAA get corny or too over-the-top. A steady pace of one catastrophe after another is what keeps audiences roaring in anticipation. A snowstorm stops Neal from landing at his intended destination. Wichita, and later St Louis, keep Neal and Del glued together in endless, delightful, unexpected comedy schtick. Steve plays the uptight “perfect” foil to Del’s genius, improvisational routines. It’s a match made in heaven, as this duo finds themselves having to take another plane, train, bus, truck, car, and semi to get Neal home in time for turkey dinner. “It’s like “going on a date with a chatty Cathy doll,” or “being pulled up by your testicles.” Oh, my tummy hurts from laughing so hard.
My favorite scene was John Candy driving while singing along to Ray Charles’ hit tune, MESS AROUND. I could not stop laughing out loud. I loved his “chats With Marie, his innocence, creativity, and “puppy dog eyes.” Del totally accepted and liked who he was. John, as Del, was brilliant, lovable, and hysterical. John’s time on earth was just not enough. What a loss. We could sure use his artistry and flair every day in our world today.
Neal was an acquired taste. Steve certainly played him “with a stick up his ass.” Yet it was sheer bliss when he exploded and let it all out. I have never heard the word “f**k” said in so many creative ways. It was like taking a lesson in a Meisner Acting class. It takes a highly skilled actor to allow others to “play” off him. This is a testament to his phenomenal talent.
PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES is a bright, easy-viewing film. It is not deep or thought-provoking. It is not meant to solve any world problems. But it will make you laugh and remember what Thanksgiving Is all about…family, friendship, acceptance, and love. Who could ask for any more of a classic during this time of year? Enjoy it with your family.
PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES is available to stream on PARAMOUNT.