The Road Trip Movie is a popular film format that has become a staple of the industry. The premise to most of these movies is simple: put friends/family/strangers in a confined space for a certain amount of time and wait for the drama to unfold.
Forcing characters to spend time with one another inevitably leads to shortened tempers and secrets coming up. This is certainly the case with two movies from this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival: Thelma, Louise et Chantal and Third Star.
Thelma, Louise et Chantal
Philippe’s getting married. He’s the ex-boyfriend of one of the three women at the centre of a movie which is part Sex and the City, part Sideways. All three of the women decide to get away and go to the wedding, intrigued to see the woman who finally got Philippe down the aisle. As the movie progresses it’s obvious they all still share a certain amount of affection for the groom causing tension in the ranks.
Ultimately this is a light-hearted, fun movie about three women who have been badly treated by men in the past and are doing the best to cope with that pain. In that sense it’s a typical road trip movie, as getting away allows them to take stock of where their lives are.
There are some tough, emotive issues mixed up amongst the froth. Things like cancer, betrayal and self-loathing. For me, a male viewer in his 20s, however, the issues these women were going through didn’t really hit home on an emotional level. And overall, I felt this was a fairly throwaway movie that was pleasant without being especially memorable. Perhaps in another life when I hit the menopause it’ll be something I enjoy more.
This year’s EIFF Closing Gala movie is Third Star; a movie about four guys who decide to go on a camping trip to Wales. The opening monologue sets the tone for the movie: revealing one of the four has terminal cancer, and has just a year to live. He convinces the other three to take him to his ‘favourite place in the world’ before he dies.
Beautifully shot and accompanied by an enchanting score, Third Star has you engaged from the first scene as we gradually uncover the lives of the four men, their relationships with one another and their attitude towards the imminent death of one of them.
There’s a reality to their conversations whether jovial or serious that gives the whole movie a terrific weight. I completely bought into the relationships between these four friends and their reaction to cards their sick friend had been dealt.
And then the movie reached its climax. And I was left strangely cold by the whole experience. I think this was for a number of reasons:
The first is that the secrets the other three men were keeping gave the piece a certain amount of the dramatic tension which their reveal failed to meet. These personal issues, whether with women or their jobs all seeming fairly run of the mill and very middle class.
The second is that although the relationships between the characters are very well realised and a real strength of the film; the characters themselves end up being a little one note. Every decision they make can be explained by a line in the movie about their personality. This gives the impression that the writers made characters to suit the plot, rather than allowing the plot to play out according to the personalities involved.
Third Star is a movie I wanted to love. Unlike Thelma, Louise et Chantal it’s a movie about guys in their twenties discussing issues I could really identify with. However, a lack of subtly with regard to the plotting and characters meant this film was a triumph of style rather than substance.