Daytrippers [1996]

When a suburban housewife, Eliza (Hope Davis), discovers a love letter in her husband's pocket, it starts a wild, quirky, and ultimately poignant journey through the strained relationships of her entire dysfunctional family. Thinking it must be some misunderstanding, she brings the letter to her unbearably dominating mother (Anne Meara), who freaks and piles her passive husband (Pat McNamara), Eliza's promiscuous sister (Parker Posey), and her philosophical fiancé (Liev Schreiber) into a station wagon and heads off to New York City for an explanation. First-time writer/director Gregg Mottola changes the road movie's typically vast and open landscape to a claustrophobic, bustling urban setting but still uses it as a way to force out unspoken emotional turmoil between all three of the couples. His dialogue is often sharp and perceptive, and while the situations often contain huge laughs, an undercurrent of pain lurks just beneath the humor. The indie film uses conversations instead of plot to drive its action, and therefore needs engaging performances to succeed. With the exception of the one-note Posey, it gets them: Davis and Schreiber both play pathos and humor beautifully, and Stanley Tucci's cameo as the suspect husband--and the heartbreaking rooftop dance he performs--provides a surprising and ambiguous conclusion. --Dave McCoy

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