Screw the staycation. The economy’s on the rebound, non? Nyet? Nein? There’s no better premise for a movie than to take an American and plop them somewhere exotic, but travel movies like Nia Vardolos’ lady-tour-guide-in-Greece flick, My Life in Ruins, run the risk of driving folks out of the multiplex and straight to the airport. For those planning to actually leave the house this summer, read on for a list of inspirational accounts and cautionary tales. Americans, unleashed upon a cowering world. Bon voyage!
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
wisely when traveling with a friend, lest you end up arguing over where
to eat, where to stay, or who gets to have an affair with the hot
Spanish guy with the crazy ex-wife. In Woody Allen’s fourth movie shot
outside the U.S., it’s not hard to see how American women got their
reputation for… adventurousness. Even the rather staid Vicky (Rebecca
Hall) cuts loose, and there’s never a question as to whether Cristina
(Scarlett Johannson) will eventually land the brooding Juan Antonio
(Javier Bardem). What happens on vacation, indeed.
Sex and the City (2008)
Look, not everyone hated this movie, OK? A
tropical trip is one way to heal — or at least distract yourself from —
a broken heart, which Carrie Bradshaw most definitely has after being
jilted by Mr. Big at the altar. So her three besties drag her off on
her Mexican honeymoon, and true to form, the four react differently to
the same stimuli. Carrie mopes. Samantha purrs sexily. Miranda mutters. And Charlotte ends up with Montezuma’s revenge after
inadvertently drinking shower water. Stick to margaritas sans ice.
Lost in Translation (2003)
an aging American actor in town to film a whiskey commercial, Tokyo,
with its flashing lights and high energy, certainly seems like an
entertaining place. But loneliness is hard to overcome, even with the
help of a comely young photographer’s wife (Scarlett Johannson, who’s
emerging as the quinessential travel muse). But Bill Murray is that
rare fish out of water who ends up seeming oddly at home on land.
Karaoke? No problem. Suspiciously succinct interpreters? Piece of cake.
Pretty girl yelling “Lip my stocking!”? OK, whatever.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
can be about finding yourself. Or about re-establishing a relationship
with your estranged siblings. Or about tracking down the mom who
abandoned you to live in an abbey in the Himalayas. Gloriously
atmospheric and not a little twee, Wes Anderson’s idea of a road movie
has poisonous snakes, fist fights, way too much baggage (both kinds)
and numerous examples of how the best laid plans of Peter (Adrien
Brody), Francis (Owen Wilson) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) often go
it so unreasonable to expect access to a doctor, or at least a
telephone, when one’s wife is suddenly shot in the neck while on a bus
tour abroad? Poor Richard (Brad Pitt) has more to contend with than an
unfamiliar language or unpalatable food. First he’s trapped in a dusty
Moroccan town while Susan (Cate Blanchett) is treated by some old women
and a veterinarian. Then the other passengers abandon them, fearing
that the hills are alive with terrorists. This is why it is not
advisable to travel by bus. Ever.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
looks quite as glorious on film as the Mediterranean coastline, unless
it’s a young Jude Law. Or a young Gwyneth Paltrow. Anthony Minghella’s
adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel has something for everyone!
As Tom Ripley, Matt Damon demonstrates just how easily a clever and
resourceful American voyager can reinvent himself overseas. A
struggling piano player in New York City, Ripley quickly morphs into a
Princeton alum, and later into Dickie Greenleaf, a wealthy man whose
identity he’s assumed. Traveler beware: This stuff only works in the
Before Sunrise (1995)
Linklater’s talky, picturesque, talky, thoughtful, talky romance (it’s
also kind of talky) is everyone’s fantasy of a random encounter on a
train. As Jesse, a visiting American, and Celine, a French student,
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy share an enchanted evening in Vienna, their
romantic conversation touching on nearly everything under the moon. Can
one magical night in a foreign land change your future? Linklater
revealed the answer nine years later in Before Sunset: Sort of!
National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)
mean well, mostly, but they don’t always make the best impression while
abroad — in the movies, at least. That goes double when they’re as
clueless as the incorrigible Griswold clan, who wreak havoc all over
the Continent in the second of the four Vacation comedies.
Clark (Chevy Chase), baffled by London’s mysterious traffic patterns —
driving on the left is just so wacky! — repeatedly mows down the same
bicyclist: Eric Idle, in an awesome cameo. And Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo)
is humiliated when a still from her racy homemade video ends up on an
Italian billboard — but really, hasn’t that happened to the best of us?
An American in Paris (1951)
Gene Kelly is the exuberant artist living in Paris with an unlikely
penchant for dramatic choreography. Leslie Caron is the bequiling
French girl for whom he quickly grows to carry a torch. Together, they
make Best Picture magic in this lavish Technicolor musical romance
inspired by the music of George Gershwin. There may be no better
advertisement for the Parisian tourist bureau than when the two are
gaily dancing along the banks of the Seine without a care in the world
and eyes only for each other.