Seraphic Secret usually recommends classic Hollywood movies to help celebrate our national holidays. But this year we’re going to switch gears and recommend one of our favorite Thanksgiving movies, Plains, Trains and Automobiles, 1987. Not only is this one of the finest, most touching Thanksgiving movie ever made, but it’s also the best film written, directed and produced by the late, great John Hughes, best remembered for his fine teen comedies.
Steve Martin plays Neal a stuffy businessman desperately trying to get home for Thanksgiving, but trapped in a modern odyssey with lovable, slob shower curtain ring salesman Del, the late John Candy, in a beautifully modulated performance. Reminiscent of the great silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong: a blizzard delays a short flight to Chicago which leads to three-day road trip; a car melts, money is stolen, deer rise from the dead and every single service person Martin deals with is either clueless, joyously sadistic, or just plain nuts. Of course, Martin and Candy end up sharing a narrow motel bed which leads to this middle of the night exchange:
Neal: Del… Why did you kiss my ear?
Del: Why are you holding my hand?
Neal: Where’s your other hand?
Del: Between two pillows…
Neal: Those aren’t pillows!
And prepare yourself for the greatest rant in movie history as Steve Martin lets Candy know how deeply annoying he is:
“I mean, didn’t you notice on the plane when you started talking, eventually I started reading the vomit bag? Didn’t that give you some sort of clue like, ‘Hey, maybe this guy’s not enjoying it’? You know, everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You’re a miracle—your stories have none of that. They’re not even amusing accidentally! ‘Honey, I’d like you to meet Del Griffith, he’s got some amusing anecdotes for you. Oh, and here’s a gun so you can blow your brains out. You’ll thank me for it.’ I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They’d say, ‘How can you stand it?’ I’d say, ‘Cause I’ve been with Del Griffith. I can take anything.’ And you know what they’d say? They’d say, ‘I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring guy. Whoa.’ It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you to have a little string on your chest that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back—you would. ‘Aah, aah, aah.’ And by the way, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea—have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”
This film has a lovely resolution that perfectly embodies the spirit of Thanksgiving: gratitude, charity, and the love of family and friends.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and meaningful Thanksgiving.