Life Lessons are Learned in These Recent Adult Road Trip Movies

There have been a spate of movies recently featuring adults taking road trips with and learning lessons from their elderly parents.

“Why are these characters together?” is a question all writers need to answer when crafting their stories. You need a reason for a group of people to be in one place if you want them to interact, which then is the only way the story moves forward and drama or comedy is able to be brought forth. Sometimes it’s a dinner party, sometimes it’s an AA meeting…whatever the case, stories almost always require proximity.

A few recent movies show that screenwriters have rediscovered the road trip as a way to put two or more people together for extended periods of time. Not only that, but it’s been used on at least three separate occasions as a way for children to reconnect with their estranged elderly parents.

It’s a good conceit, allowing for a bunch of people to be in a confined space for extended periods of time, which forces them to get real about the issues they have with each other. There are still enough opportunities for external stimuli, though, in the form of roadside dining, hotel stays, unscheduled visits to monuments or extended family and more. Of course in each situation the writer has to find a reason why other modes of transportation aren’t feasible, otherwise the story is over in the airport drop off lane.

So let’s take a look at the who and why of three recent or upcoming movies that, like Clark Griswold, decided to load up the family truckster and hit the open road. It should be noted, though, that none of these movies seem to feature “Scotty Doesn’t Know,” which you can take as you will.

Kodachrome

kodachrome poster

The Elderly Parent: Ben (Ed Harris), a famous photojournalist with cancer who has weeks at most to live.

The Estranged Child: Matt (Jason Sudeikis), a divorced A&R guy who’s in the midst of trying to save his job at a record label.

The Wild Card: Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), Ben’s hospice nurse and assistant, who comes along to administer his medication and keep an eye on his health.

Purpose of Trip: Ben has discovered an old roll of Kodachrome film and needs to travel to the last store able to develop it before it closes in a week.

Why Can’t They Fly: Ben’s health needs rule out air travel.

How the Parent Helps: Matt finds that Ben’s uncompromising determination to be bluntly honest, something his pending death has only made more pronounced, is helpful in certain situations and even if it doesn’t save his job it might open up more opportunities for something else.

Boundaries

boundaries posterThe Elderly Parent: Jack (Christopher Plummer), a lifelong pot grower and dealer.

The Estranged Child: Laura (Vera Farmiga), his daughter who embraced order and rule-following after watching her father do neither.

The Wild Card: Henry (Lewis MacDougall), Laura’s son who never really had a chance to get to know his grandfather before.

Purpose of Trip: Jack has been kicked out of yet another care facility and is going to be moving in with his other daughter, JoJo (Kristen Schaal).

Why Can’t They Fly: It’s not stated explicitly in the trailer, but let’s assume Jack’s history has placed him on several watchlists.

How the Parent Helps: Hey, it turns out that loosening up and smoking a little pot now and then isn’t such a bad idea. Plus, there are dogs involved.

An Actor Prepares

an actor prepares posterThe Elderly Parent: Atticus (Jeremy Irons), an aging actor who’s not quite ready to exit the stage.

The Estranged Child: Adam (Jack Huston), his son who still harbors issues over how Atticus left the family years ago.

The Wild Card: None, it seems.

Purpose of Trip: The family needs to get Atticus to his daughter’s wedding.

Why Can’t They Fly: Atticus just had a heart attack.

How the Parent Helps: Based on the trailer it looks like Atticus basically just helps Adam loosen up and realize he’s not that bad a guy after all.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Picking Up the Spare – Superfly, Boundaries and More

Superfly

Director X has been out there giving more interviews, including how he sought out Future to curate the movie’s soundtrack in part because he wanted to follow in Curtis Mayfield’s footsteps. He also shared the story of how he got involved when the project was kind of a King Lear adaptation but which eventually came back around to being a remake/update of the first Super Fly.

Boundaries

More from director Shana Feste as well as star Vera Farmiga about the genesis of the story, shooting the movie with so many dogs, the relationships each have with their fathers and thoughts on the current conversation around the demographic representation of the film critic community.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

There’s been a wave of opinion pieces about whether or not the 1993 original Jurassic Park needed any sequels at all. That position is exemplified by Matt Singer’s thinking that a scene from the first movie negates any possibility of additional stories and Clara Wardlow’s take that there simply aren’t that many narrative threads in this universe to pull on.

Star Wars

Borys Kit at THR does some digging and gets to the heart of the matter regarding Lucasfilm’s reaction to Solo’s underperformance, offering that while yes, the people there are taking fresh looks at everything there are still non-Saga projects moving forward.

Uncle Drew

Lil Rey Howery has been the subject of more profiles like this as release has drawn closer, which makes sense given the prominence he appears to have in the story but which marks a change from the NBA-heavy emphasis of the campaign to date. Costar Nick Kroll has also made a couple late night talk show appearances.

Set It Up

The writers and other filmmakers have been making the media rounds in the last week, resulting in stories like this feature and this profile of director Claire Scanlon. As I stated before, this level of earned media activity is unusual for Netflix except for prestige releases, a sign it’s both listening and responding to the buzz around this movie and trying to further own the mid-tier movie market.

Woman Walks Ahead

The movie is one of several recent projects that have brought more women into the Western genre.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Picking Up the Spare – Tag, Superfly and More

Superfly

More from Future on the soundtrack he produced and curated, which was a big part of the marketing campaign, here. Director X has also been giving interviews like this now that the movie is out.

Also recommended is this compare/contrast of this album with that of the original.

Tag

Star Jeremy Renner’s broken arms are part of this interview with director Jeff Tomsic where he talks about all the challenges he had making the movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Star Thandie Newton talked more here about the dress she wore to the premiere featuring the faces of the characters of color in the franchise to date.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

More on the Kellogg’s promotion for the movie here.

The movie is the next release to get the AR treatment from Moviebill, which is once again handing out periodicals to Regal Cinemas audiences that can be scanned using the Regal app to unlock exclusive content, including interviews (in print and AR format) with star Bryce Dallas Howard and director J.A. Bayona, a welcome message from star Chris Pratt, an interactive “dino-lab” and a sample of the dinosaurs available in the Jurassic World Alive, the location-based AR mobile game developed by Ludia.

That game is built on location and other data from Google Maps, which is helping to promote both the game and the services behind it.

Daniella Pineda has received a few profiles like this after being identified as the breakout newcomer – or at least largely unknown – in the movie. That makes the reports that a scene clearly identifying her as LGBTQ was cut, the latest instance of that happening in a major studio franchise film, somewhat awkward.

There’s also a bit of extra attention coming to co-star Justice Smith.

Director J.A. Bayona was never the focus of much of the press in advance of the movie’s release, but there was an interview with him here and another one here.

First Reformed

More from director Paul Schrader on the film’s disturbing characters and situations as well as his feelings and thoughts on God.

Gotti

The campaign for this is one I let go by me because it seemed like a terrible mess and the post-release developments have only reinforced that decision. Here are some examples:

  • The studio, along with MoviePass (which invested in the film), published a really weird and insulting Tweet positioning critics giving it a negative review as enemies of the common folk.
  • That same message was conveyed in push notifications to MoviePass mobile users and is what the movie’s marketing team is selling as they float the idea Rotten Tomatoes is artificially keeping its score down.
  • There’s speculation that the disconnect between that score and a strangely high audience ranking could be because of a bot/fake account campaign being mounted, something the studio denies.

Wonder Woman

As the marketing for the sequel ramps up, Turner Ignite placed a paid article on Ad Age about how Turner networks and shows helped sell the first movie to audiences.

Lady Bird

Amazon promoted the movie’s availability on its streaming service with a Father’s Day clip featuring some of Tracy Letts’ wonderfully-delivered lines from the movie.

The Incredibles 2

More from costar Holly Hunter in this brief interview.

A Wrinkle In Time

It seems Disney used the tactic of pairing this movie, which is already on home video, with The Incredibles 2 at drive-in theaters around the country to help it eek past the $100m mark.

Avengers: Infinity War / Deadpool 2

Josh Brolin is interviewed about how popular he is right now and how that kind of bothers and worries him.

Boundaries

OK, I’ll grant you that co-star Peter Fonda’s Tweet about Bannon Trump was in poor taste, but right now the last person who should be asserting any sort of moral highground on literally any issue at all is Donald Trump Jr. Indiewire has the whole recap, including Sony Classics’ position on the matter.

Christopher Plummer’s character was based in part on the real life grandfather of director Shana Feste.

The Catcher Was a Spy

The New York Times delves into the real history of Moe Berg, played by Paul Rudd in the movie.

Black Panther

An exhibit of the movie’s costumes will be on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Dundee

No, it wasn’t a real movie, but the campaign for Tourism Australia that sure looked like a movie’s marketing push just won multiple awards at the Cannes Social Lions.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Boundaries – Marketing Recap

boundaries posterThe great Christopher Plummer plays Jack, an eternally-chill pot dealer in the new movie Boundaries. Jack’s activities and his generally ornery personality have gotten him kicked out of yet another nursing home and so it’s up to his estranged daughter Laura (Vera Farmiga), along with her son Henry (Lewis MacDougall) to drive him cross-country so he can stay with his other daughter JoJo (Kristen Schaal).

The road-trip means a lot of close-quarters interaction time, which allows Jack a chance to really get to know his grandson and teach the kid to loosen up and break the rules every once in a while. Laura isn’t thrilled with this but, of course, the time together – aided by the diversions Jack insists on taking along the way – means the father and daughter come to understand each other a bit better as well.

The Posters

Laura, Jack and Henry are all shown riding in the car on the poster, laughing about something. That and the copy “With every road trip comes baggage” explains as best it can that this is a family trip that will likely involve some reopening of old wounds as well as fresh discoveries, revelations and acceptance amongst the travelers.

The Trailers

Laura is in therapy talking about the issues she has with her father when the trailer opens. Jack, it turns out, likes his weed, something that’s caused issues in the family for a while. He’s been kicked out of his community home and it’s up to Laura to take him cross-country to stay with her sister. Along the way Jack enlists Henry’s help to unload the massive amount of pot that’s ready for sale, which involves making some changes to the planned route, including seeing Laura’s ex-husband and Henry’s father. That’s just one of the colorful characters they cross paths with.

It all looks very charming, with loose and energetic performances from both Farmiga and Plummer. Interesting that it’s one of a few movies recently involving young kids taking up weed selling as a side hustle, but these are the times we’re living in, right?

Online and Social

There’s some decent information on the official website from Sony Classics. It opens with the trailer but once you get past that you can scroll down and read more about the story, the cast and the crew. There’s also a decent collection of stills. The only stand-alone social profile created for the movie was on Facebook.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I don’t think Sony’s done any paid promotion for the movie, though there may have been some geo-specific ads run to help drive awareness in the areas it’s being released.

Media and Publicity

The movie was one of those announced to be screened at the SXSW Film Festival. Sony Classics released a clip around the time of that screening that provided a look at the basic premise of the story. An interview with Farmiga where she talked about the story and what it was like to work with Plummer accompanied the release of the first trailer on EW.

There were a few more interviews closer to release, but not anything that amounted to a significant push of any sort.

Overall

We’ve seen this movie plenty of times before, so the real value proposition is in the performances of the leads, as well as in the promise that there’s some new perspective being taken on familiar tropes. The former seems much more readily apparent in the marketing materials than the ladder, as the combination of Farmiga and Plummer is well worth checking out while “lessons learned on a road trip” is well-worn territory.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

OK, I’ll grant you that co-star Peter Fonda’s Tweet about Bannon Trump was in poor taste, but right now the last person who should be asserting any sort of moral highground on literally any issue at all is Donald Trump Jr. Indiewire has the whole recap, including Sony Classics’ position on the matter.

 

Christopher Plummer’s character was based in part on the real life grandfather of director Shana Feste.
More from director Shana Feste as well as star Vera Farmiga about the genesis of the story, shooting the movie with so many dogs, the relationships each have with their fathers and thoughts on the current conversation around the demographic representation of the film critic community.