Cook Library Cinema Club: Road Trips
As July winds to an end and the start of a new school year approaches, many of us are heading off on well-deserved vacations. Is there a road trip in your future? Too much togetherness over a few too many miles can wear thin, but one thing is certain: road trips often create lasting memories. The movies have documented some crazy cross-country treks over the years. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Little Miss Sunshine (2006): If you think your family is annoying -- spend some time with this one! The dysfunctional Hoover family piles into their ancient VW van and sets off on a cross-country trek to get 7 year-old Olive to a California talent competition. Olive's dad is desperate to sell his motivational book; her 15 year-old brother has taken a vow of silence; her gay uncle may be suicidal; her grandfather has just been evicted from his retirement community for bad behavior (Alan Arkin in an Oscar-winning performance); and her harried mom just wants everyone to get along. While hugely funny, the quirky film also delivers a heartwarming message that even fractured families can pull together when it matters most. In addition to Arkin, the exceptional cast includes Steve Carrell, Greg Kinear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, and Paul Dano.
Sideways (2004): Two middle-aged friends set off on a rambling tour of California's wine country. Miles, a struggling writer and wine connoisseur, hopes to make the trip a sort of last hurrah for Jack, an actor past his prime, whose pending wedding is just days away. When the two meet a pair of women along the way, Jack is determined to fit in one last fling before the big day, while Miles hopes that he may be in for a romantic adventure of his own. With both great humor and poignancy, the film explores both men's worries that life may have already shown them the best it has to offer. The superb cast includes Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, and Sandra Oh.
The Trip (2010): For a jolly-good time on the road, try the British film The Trip. When a London-based newspaper reporter is sent on an assignment to tour the best restaurants in Northern England, he views the trip as an opportunity for a romantic getaway with his girlfriend. When she backs out at the last minute, he takes his best friend along instead -- and soon finds that his travel companion drives him absolutely crazy. The off-beat film stars the always-funny British comics Steve Coogan and Robert Bryton, and the pair is credited with improvising a great deal of the material.
Lost in America (2001): In Lost in America, a disenchanted advertising executive quits his job in disgust after losing out on a big promotion. After convincing his wife to sell their house and cash in their retirement "nest egg," the two set off in a giant Winnebago to travel the country in their own Easy Rider -type adventure. The new lifestyle suits the free spirits just fine until the pair hits Las Vegas -- where the nest egg proves to be something of a temptation. Albert Brooks wrote and directed this delicious satire of 1980's Yuppie angst, and he also stars in the film with Julie Haggarty.
Easy Rider (1969): Easy Rider may be the ultimate road trip film -- a classic that helped spark the new wave of independent filmmaking that transformed Hollywood in the late 1960's. The movie tells the story of a pair of hippie bikers traveling from LA to New Orleans for Mardis Gras, and their encounters with a variety of counterculture lifestyles and characters along the way. The film stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (who are credited for the screenplay as well) -- with Jack Nicholson in an early stand-out role as a drunken lawyer who joins the pair on their cross-country trek.