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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Often Wondering

I find myself often wondering about many things. Not in the same way that a stand-up comedian from the late '80s wonders about things, but more like a guy who has horrible insomnia, a loaded liquor cabinet, and too much time on his hands with no one to talk to wonders about things.

Case and point, the other night I was staring at the stars on a clear Autumn night, having just seen a commercial for "The Fourth Kind," listening to the leaves gently scrape against the ground in the gentle midnight breeze, and thought I should get back to writing for myself, in addition to the other sites I occasionally post to.

It was at this moment that a strange notion crossed my mind: What if "Trains, Planes, and Automobiles" wasn't necessarily a comedy? (This may be why keep profound thoughts like this inside my head.) So, you get to see the revitalization of this blog with the above pondering.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was, without a doubt, a great movie. Touching, heartwarming, and absolutely hilarious - yet offset with the perfect dash of pathos. But what if it wasn't intended as an outright comedy and buddy film? What if John Hughes, in some warped way, was trying to make a movie about someone with a personality disorder or someone whose internal conflict manifested itself as John Candy? Tell me it's never happened to you.


Imagine Steve Martin's character, caught in the day-to-day business world, seemingly late for an appointment to see his family for Thanksgiving and stressed beyond all belief to the demands and obligations he's heaped on his own shoulders, conjuring up Del Griffith. Del is what Steve's character, Neal, not only used to be, but what he may become.

Del doesn't necessarily take life too seriously, he knows how to talk to people and have fun. He can persuade people without being abrasive, knows how to laugh, and enjoys the company of others.

He also is what most people, caught up in this past-paced world have lost a connection to, and won't realize it until it's far too late. It's very possible that part of Neal's personality realizes that if he keeps up this all-business attitude that he will forget how to enjoy life and those closest to him and (if we're truly going to read too much into this, while we're swimming toward the deep end of over-analysis) those relationships (at least figuratively) will die.

Martin and Candy go back and forth, with Martin begrudgingly putting up with his traveling partner out of reluctant necessity, like his character seems to view everything: like an inconvenience. Candy's character has kept up through similar situations, and has learned to see those aspects to laugh at/with and to appreciate the good in even the worst of conditions. Del Griffith isn't a guy in a pressed suit, nor is he flashy, slick, or overly-determined. He's very flawed in comparison to Neal, but in a very human way.

Neal, on the other hand, has become the very antithesis of Del's persona. Neal is a serious, dry clean only, "get from point A to point B and then move on to the next thing" kind of guy. He sees this journey to spend a holiday with his family as something that, while important on some level, something that interrupts the other aspects of his life (which seems to be a series of interruptions to the point that the character and the viewer sometimes forget what the main purpose of this great adventure really is).

Notice that the movie doesn't start out with Neal and Del traveling together. Del appears after Neal's first string of major inconveniences. Neal spends a good part of the rest of the movie trying to ignore Del, and reprimanding him because things take wrong turn when he isn't keeping Del in constant check. However, Neal leaves Del to his own devices (talking to people in the airport and selling shower rings as jewelry, for instance), or follows Del's inclinations (singing on the bus or getting drunk from the mini bar at the hotel), that fun is to be had, and positive insight is to be gained. If the things and people you hold closest become obligations, then you will be lost in this world.

In the end, we have Neal's wife, Susan (who has some of the most endearing eyes I've seen, and a smile that just conveys that all is right in the world) welcomes both Neal and Del home for Thanksgiving. She treats Del not as a stranger, but as a welcome addition to the household. I will plumb the depth of scrutinizing my notion to the point of exhaustion by saying it is as though she is very happy that Neal is bringing that part of himself that was almost lost back into their lives again.




Sure, this is probably not what Mr. Hughes intended. It probably isn't even a subtext that either Steve Martin or John Candy decided to bring to their respective characters. As I stated, this certainly isn't the last post along these lines. I have a lot of time on my hands. There are those whose synapses come up with cures for things, revolutionary inventions, and wondrous creations. I'm just picking up the slack for them.

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