When I think of Thanksgiving, I think about and am thankful for a few things. First, I think of family. God has blessed me with an amazing family. I have the best parents and siblings anyone could ask for. I have an amazing wife and wonderful children. Second, I think of food. If that makes me shallow, so be it. I am a simple man with simple needs, and food makes me happy on a very basic level. As you can see from my profile picture at the end of this article, I probably like food a little too much, but that is a story for another day. Food is awesome and Thanksgiving food, enjoyed with family and friends, is even more awesome.
An Odd Couple on a Road Trip
Finally, I think of Planes, Trains and Automobiles – the 1987 classic film from John Hughes. Yes, a movie. Of course, there are literally hundreds of things in my life that are more important than a movie, but that’s not really the point. This isn’t some hierarchy of thankfulness. My reasoning is simple: the truth of the matter is, there really isn’t a Thanksgiving Movie genre. Sure, there are a few out there, but it is a mostly unexplored narrative territory. Most other major holidays have no lack of representation on film. I think the lack of Thanksgiving films is directly tied to our natural inclination of ungratefulness. So, when a great film comes along that is not only set around Thanksgiving but also captures everything that is wonderful and important about the holiday, it is my duty to celebrate it. Simply put, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is not just a Thanksgiving film because the plot centers on Thanksgiving.
If you haven’t seen the film (why haven’t you seen the film?!?) it is a road trip, odd couple mash-up. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, the put-upon, straight-laced lead while John Candy plays Del Griffith, the annoying, loud, obnoxious supporting character who ends up traveling across the country with Martin’s character. The film comes up with a number of uncomfortable situations for these amazing actors to play off each other – and they never disappoint. Martin is perfect in his boiling, seething frustration while Candy was never better, playing a seemingly clueless buffoon. While both are great, it’s Candy who steals the film. He is somehow able to imbue a character, who should be too annoying to care about, with humanity and depth. Honestly, it is award level acting, and it gets overlooked because he makes it look so easy.
Don’t Miss the Deeper Magic
A surface-level reading of the film misses the deeper magic at play behind all the jokes and insanity. At its very heart, the film tells a story of grace, forgiveness, and seeing the humanity in everyone we encounter. I have written before about being slow to judge, of listening to the storyline of everyone we encounter. There is probably no better example of that in popular culture than Planes, Trains and Automobiles. After the film has completely stripped away our defenses with perfectly timed jokes, quips, and comedic perfection, it lays its soul bare and reveals the beating heart that is most important.
All the Feels!
The end of the film gets me every time. Watching Neal realize the truth behind Del’s story, all the way to the two of them hauling Del’s ridiculous trunk down the street to Neal’s house, the film makes no effort to hide its true sensibilities. The film is about family: our desperate need for connection and acceptance. What is a more Thanksgiving message than that?
One Note of Caution
The film is rated R. We don’t review a lot of R rated movies on Rambling Ever On. We made the exception for this one since outside of two scenes – one early in the film in a taxi with some inappropriate pin-up girl type pictures and the second a scene at a car-rental location that is expletive-filled – the film is incredibly clean and family-friendly. As always, we urge you to be cautious and vigilant about what you watch.