Movie Mettle is a weekly column for moviegoers with weak constitutions. Wish you had the balls to sit through the goriest of horror movies? Want to build up your resistance to weepy rom-coms? Each week we’ll give you a range of five movies that will test your limits, you cinematic thrillseeker, you.
I’m back from a family trip to Germany, and I’ve got traveling on my mind! Though perhaps not a genre in itself — folded into rom-coms, thrillers, and dramas alike — the notion of getting away from your daily life is pretty universal.
But maybe you hate travel! For all we know, you’ve been stopped one too many times in the security line for a “random search,” or it’s rained on your every summer visit to Europe. You could’ve picked up a traveler’s bug or been laughed at for not speaking the local language. For many, escapism can be exhausting.
That’s why this week’s Movie Mettle tackles five travel films for those who hate to watch them–whether you find them cloyingly unrealistic, or you think there’s no dramatic heft to watching characters board planes, trains, and automobiles. So let’s stamp your cinematic passport and get aboard already.
Warm-Up: Eurotrip[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeoX8MZd81E&hl=en_US&version=3]
You might be wondering why I put the rowdy, “American Pie in Europe” movie at the start of the list. That’s because this insanely quotable romp through the lands of our forefathers is actually a whip-smart movie about the cultural divide. (I even included it on my Best Movies of the 2000s list without any irony.) With jokes and stereotypes for Americans and Europeans, it does what any good trip should do: Start conversation.
Novice: Vicky Cristina Barcelona[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39PuFOTjtk8&hl=en_US&version=3]
The overbearing narrator and story of two white girls whiling away the summer in Barcelona might be a turn-off for some, which makes Woody Allen’s film a good place to start testing your patience. Even though the marketing focused on the threesome scene between Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Scarlett Johansson, this movie is more grounded in reality than you might think.
Intermediate: Eat Pray Love[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjay5vgIwt4&hl=en_US&version=3]
Whereas Woody Allen restrained himself to present a very honest portrait of tourists, this dramedy flirts with more unrealistic territory. Meant to be inspiring, it instead comes across as condescending. Unfortunately, this probably has something to do with the casting of Julia Roberts. Despite being Hollywood’s Everywoman, she makes this kind of emotional journey seem out of everyone’s reach. Chances are you’ll appreciate one of the three parts but not all of them. At least Javier Bardem pops up again.
Expert: The Beach[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoygPJevn-Q&version=3&hl=en_US]
And now we’re moving out of the realm of escapist fantasy into terrifying cautionary tales of travel gone horribly wrong. Some people love this movie, but others find it way too farwheeling, with Leonardo DiCaprio’s eventual disappearance into the jungle to go insane stretching the limits of tolerance. See which side you fall on.
BAMF: Deliverance[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3Jr7af1FrQ&hl=en_US&version=3]
Ironic that the top movie on this list isn’t about traveling to Europe, but rather exploring the borders of our own country. Usually the BAMF entry on a Movie Mettle column is an awful movie, but in 2008 Deliverance was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress for its cultural significance. Now, the question is, can you sit through this dark commentary on the fringes of American culture without squealing like a pig?
Have a genre of movie, specific trope, or actor that you wish you could sit through? Leave your request in the comments and I might take it on in a future column!