Warning: this entry is short.
If Planes, Trains & Automobiles must be set in reality, then it takes place in 1988, a year after its release. Though it’s a common cinematic thing to show the moon full, I choose to take the interior of the film at face value, and we definitely see a full or near-full moon, and the movie takes place over the course of three days, culminating on Thanksgiving. Now, Thanksgiving in 1988 was November 24, the full moon that month on November 23. In 1987, Thanksgiving was the 26th, but the full moon would have been weeks earlier on the 5th of November or a couple weeks later on the 5th of December.
For those of you reading this in another country, Thanksgiving may not mean much to you. You might have an idea of what it is, but that’s all. It’s one of the few specifically-American holidays. And, it’s important, I think that this film takes place in the days leading into Thanksgiving as opposed to, say, Christmas—not a specifically-American holiday—or Independence Day—a summery, less... wholesome family holiday. Now, Christmas and Thanksgiving are both about the whole family-gathering thing, and food, but Christmas has the religious (or at least pseudo-religious) angle and the capitalist thing, while Thanksgiving deals in American mythology. It’s not Christian.
That’s the route Neal and Del follow in this film. Because Thanksgiving is all about not just family but going home. You travel, sometimes great distances, to get home to sit down with your family and extended family. And, there will be much more detailed notions about Thanksgiving in the coming month of movies. This one is interesting not necessarily because of how it presents Thanksgiving but because it relies on the idea of it.
An aside: as Neal and Del part at the train station in Chicago, there’s a billboard for what looks to be a portable phone (80s style) behind them. It says KEEP IN TOUCH.
Another brief bit of information before this very short blog entry comes to an end: Rick LeFevour, who doubled for Phil Connors jumping off the Hotel tower in Groundhog Day worked on this film as well—as stunt double for Doobie and Owen... which I guess just means he drove a car and a pickup... that doesn’t really seem like stunts.