By Joyce Lamb, USA TODAY
Debut author Ruthie Knox’s first book, Ride with Me, comes out Monday. Ride with Me, billed as “a cross-country bike adventure (that) takes a detour into unexplored passion,” is published by the new Loveswept line. I know I pretty much had you at “unexplored passion,” but wait, there’s more! At HEA’s request, Ruthie and Kristan Higgins, best-selling author of, most recently, Until There Was You, tossed around some observations about their favorite road-trip movies. (Warning: Make sure you’re not eating as you read this. We would feel really bad if you choked.) Oh, and if you hang around until the end and leave a comment, you could win a copy of Ride with Me.
Kristan: Yo, Ruthie! Get in the car!
To me, nothing says “road trip” like a dead relative tied to the roof of the car. Do you agree, Ruthie? National Lampoon’s Vacation came back to me in horrifying detail a few years ago when McIrish and I packed up the children and drove across country. Unfortunately, a new Harry Potter had come out, so the children missed out on most of the scenery, despite my rapid-fire order to “Look out the window! Look, kids! An antelope! Dang, you missed it. Oh! Look at the rock! Isn’t that a beautiful rock? Dang, you missed it.” Being from New England, we had vastly underestimated just how big Big Sky Country really is … but nothing says love like 14 hours of driving in a single day.
Ruthie: Oh, I agree, absolutely. It sounds like your children were perfectly in character, if they were reading and sullen while you gushed over scenery. Did McIrish keep flirting with a Christie Brinkley lookalike in a red convertible, or is that something that only happened in the ’80s? (In what universe did Clark Griswold deserve Christie Brinkley, anyway?)
My favorite ’80s road-trip movie has to be Planes, Trains & Automobiles, though. I love Steve Martin and John Candy’s odd-couple chemistry — Steve Martin so perfectly, hatefully uptight, and John Candy so obliviously slovenly and cheerful. I adore how their cross-country journey just keeps getting worse and worse, and then when you think it can’t possibly degrade further, the car catches on fire. The physical comedy from both of the leads is out of this world.
But my favorite thing about Planes, Trains & Automobiles is that it’s a love story. Unconventional, sure, and it’s not a happy-ever-after, man-and-woman sort of love, but Neal Page and Del Griffith definitely start to love each other by the end of the movie, and you know Neal was feeling a little heat when he woke up with Del’s hand between his thighs. Or not. Either way. Love that movie.
Kristan: You’re right, Planes, Trains & Automobilesis a love story. Both of those actors were at their finest in that movie. The car rental scene … ouch! We’ve all been standing behind that guy in line, horrified yet feeling his pain.
Now, who can think “road trip” without mentioning Lord of the Rings? Aragorn & Gandalf: bringing sexy back to Middle Earth! Swords! Horses! In all seriousness, I have seen these movies at least 108 times. The scenery is so breathtakingly magnificent … did I mention Aragorn? I think I did …
Ruthie: Aragorn, yes. So raggedy and stubbly. LOTR has something for everybody, and by “something” I mean, of course, “some specimen of lovable manliness.” The aforementioned Aragorn (did we mention Aragorn?), plus Legolas-of-the-Flowing-Locks, and Sam and Frodo for the hearth-and-home types. Or anybody who’s had a fixation on Sean Astin since Goonies that only got worse when Rudy came out. Not that that happened to me.
Oh, and Sean Bean, too, for bonus hotness!
But we were talking about road trips, not hotness, weren’t we? Yes. Road trips. So how about Little Miss Sunshine? Because that movie made me fall off the couch laughing a couple of times. There I was, not expecting much, just watching the movie because Toni Collette is in it and I’ll watch her in anything, ever, and it turns out to be So. Freaking. Hilarious. Greg Kinnear with his motivational speeches! Steve Carell wanting to throw himself in front of a bus! Paul Dano as the sullenest teenager ever to sullen up the screen! And all of that before Olive does her awesome bump-and-grind at the pageant.
Plus, there’s the obligatory dead body. Are road-trip movies best if they contain a dead body? Discuss.
Kristan: Yes. The importance of dead bodies on road trips … actually, let’s change the subject. Let’s talk wine. You know what I loved about Sideways? Well, the wine, of course. But it was one of the few movies in which being a writer was realistically depicted. I loved how the Paul Giamatti character tries so ineptly to talk about his book. And that scene at the tasting bar when he gets the news from his agent … just priceless. But that movie had a heart, too — despite the fact that Thomas Haden Church’s character was utterly without morals, Paul Giamatti just wouldn’t give up on him, a testimony to the friendships of our youth.
Ruthie: Agreed — Sideways is great, and so touching! I love movies about men behaving badly (in some form other than Porky’s). Sideways lets both of the protagonists be people — stupid, funny, loyal, depressing, occasionally sublime people. We don’t get enough of that in the movies.
I wonder if Thelma & Louise is the female equivalent? Best friends, endless adversity, stupid decisions, a lot of trying to negotiate the opposite sex (with very little success), and a moment of something really beautiful and sublime at the end? Of course, it doesn’t exactly end happily. But not every story has to. Just the romance ones.
Kristan: One thing about Thelma & Louise we can’t forget: Brad Pitt. Oh, yes. I also loved the aborted road trip in Bridesmaids — women behaving badly — which also reminds me of Due Date, in which my husband, Robert Downey Jr., is desperate to get home in time for the birth of his child. Alas, he’s saddled with Zach Galifianakis’ child-like and still horrifyingly irritating character. That scene where RDJ is kicked off the airplane … oh, how I loved that scene!
Ruthie: Basically any scene where someone is kicked off an airplane is awesome — and I have to agree, the airplane scene in Bridesmaids is primo.
But airplanes have romantic potential, too. Have you seen your husband in Home for the Holidays? Not only is that among his most inspired performances, but there’s a very romantic moment at the end of the movie where Dylan McDermott and his lampshade sit down next to Holly Hunter on an airplane. One of my favorite cinematic happy ever afters, hands down.
Kristan: There’s something so satisfying about road trip movies — and books! I think home is all the sweeter for having been away from it, and the lessons learned on the trip are, hopefully, lessons that will echo throughout eternity (and now I’m quoting Gladiator, which is ANOTHER great road-trip movie! Sort of! In a way …)
Ruthie: Maybe that’s the whole purpose of the road trip. Not the gladiator thing, but the disasters and adversity — like a giant pressure cooker that softens characters’ socialized shells and forces them to be their best selves. Once they’ve finished being their worst selves. The fun part is watching them at their worst, but the good part is watching them find their way home, better than they were when they left.
Ahhh. Now I want to go watch a movie. You got popcorn, Higgins?
Joyce: Thank you, Ruthie and Kristan! To find out more about Kristan and her books, you can visit her website, KristanHiggins.com. To find out more about Ruthie and her debut book, Ride with Me, you can visit her website, RuthieKnox.com.
So, readers … what’s your favorite road-trip movie? Mine is The Sure Thing with John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga from 1985. I loved the romance, as well as the Planes, Trains & Automobiles feel of everything going wrong at first but going right by the end. You?
Every week on R@R, 5 randomly chosen commenter’s will win a randomly chosen FREE book – winners announced on Sunday – good luck!