Modern life rarely stands still and nowhere is this acknowledged more than in the movies. Travel is a vital dramatic plot device, used to initiate change in characters’ lives. As they get in their car for that road trip, hop on a plane for a holiday or board that train to Self-Evaluationsville (population: one), you can bet the lead actor is going to learn a lot about themselves at the destination point.
Ben Stiller is the latest star to roam the land seeking meaning in new comedy Brad’s Status, written and directed by Mike White. Whilst visiting colleges with his aspiring musician son (Austin Abrams), Brad Sloan (Stiller) encounters old friends and realizes they have become more successful than him. But what is success and how do you judge what a life is worth? Moreover, will Stiller’s first world whining impact on Abrams’ future chances…?
Getting from A to B is a big screen staple, so to celebrate the release of Brad’s Status, I thought I’d climb into my knackered vehicle and take the scenic route to explore movies both old and new that travel the length and breadth of an audiences’ attention span…
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987)
When stressed marketing man Neal Page (Steve Martin) wanted to go home for Thanksgiving, he didn’t suspect the journey would be fraught with disaster, from blizzards to burglary. The least expected element was permanently jolly sales dynamo Del Griffith (John Candy), with whom Martin was forced to forge an alliance in order to get back to his family.
Directed by John Hughes, this inspired slapstick romp was both sillier than a box of frogs and as heartwarming as a freshly-basted turkey. Gradually these two unlikely travelling companions went from loggerheads to a love-fest. The two stars were arguably at the top of their game and certain scenes from Planes, Trains & Automobiles have passed into legend. Most notably this bedroom-based sequence:
THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999)
Alvin Straight‘s true story of travelling across America on the surprise transportation choice of a lawn tractor was perhaps an unusual option for a movie. Yet Richard Farnsworth‘s performance as Straight, who took to the road to attend to his stroke-stricken brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton), captured the public’s imagination.
Though cineastes thought they’d never see the names “David Lynch” and “Walt Disney” together, that’s precisely what they got for this offbeat journey, which the House of Mouse produced alongside the visceral auteur. The film provided a unique look at the American Midwest, filled with different experiences that were each reflected in Farnsworth’s face. His efforts resulted in an Oscar nomination.
Here’s the picturesque trailer to give you a better idea:
THE LAYOVER (2017)
Released earlier in the month was this raunchy comedy fuelled by jet engines and female rivalry. Friends Kate (Alexandra Daddario) and Meg (Kate Upton) want a break from their humdrum lives as a schoolteacher and beauty product hawker respectively. A vacation seems a perfect idea, till they both meet Ryan (Matt Barr), who the pair both have designs on.
Events are naturally derailed by various unforeseen circumstances in this cleavage-heavy take on Planes, Trains And Automobiles. It’s clear the friends’ increasingly vicious tactics are going to lead to an epiphany about what they’re doing with their lives and there’s some decent scenery along the way. Helmed by William H. Macy, The Layover‘s trailer gives you the directions you need for this particular trip:
LAST FLAG FLYING (2017)
Our final destination on this celluloid roundup is an upcoming drama about army buddies who rekindle old memories when one of their number – “Doc” Shepherd, played by Steve Carell – asks them to travel with him to his son’s funeral. Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne make up the trio in this emotional-looking ensemble piece, which is a follow up to 1973’s The Last Detail starring Jack Nicholson (based on the book by Darryl Ponicsan).
Richard Linklater directs the journey in a film with heavy expectation on it. Bearing in mind the characters’ history this will surely be a transformative trip for all of them, though the filmmakers have set themselves a mighty challenge following in the footsteps of Nicholson and Linklater’s predecessor Hal Ashby. Last Flag Flying arrives on the 28th of this month.
Meanwhile, Brad’s Status (co-starring Michael Sheen, Jenna Fischer, Luke Wilson and Jemaine Clement) is out on Friday…