A slight falling out-of-love problem.
Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland, Paul) cut his teeth with The Daytrippers, a quintessential mid-’90s indie-scene comedy about two sisters and their problems with love.
Eliza (Hope Davis) is married to Louis (Stanley Tucci) and finds a letter behind his dresser featuring a love poem that indicates he might be having an affair. The two live on Long Island, and Louis works for a publisher; he’s going to be working late that night for a book launch party, which means she has the entire day to sit and wonder what he might be up to.
Taking matters into her own hands, Eliza seeks out the advice of her parents, Rita (Anne Meara) and Jim (Pat McNamara), and the three decide to take a day trip into the city to hunt Louis down and confront him. In tow is Eliza’s sister, Jo (Parker Posey), and Jo’s pretentious boyfriend, Carl (Liev Schreiber). The trip has ramifications for everyone, particularly Eliza and Jo.
The Daytrippers is deeply efficient. With little budget, Mottola’s approach is bare: Most sequences are clearly one-take operations, designed to be filmed as efficiently as possible with as few locations. It’s showy in its restraint. Its most notable location features Davis, Posey and Schreiber stuck in the back of a station wagon. Interviews with Schreiber indicate he believes some frames include a boom mike or Mottola’s head because they only had the time and budget for a single shot.
So, too, is Mottola’s script. Thanks to the performances, the characters come off the page, particularly Schreiber’s Carl. His “young man with dumb-but-loud political ideas and literary delusions of grandeur” is often the hero or villain, but rarely so sympathetically portrayed as ultimately a nobody who comes to realize it. When Eliza finally confronts Louis, and his transgressions are laid bare, Louis is also treated as what he is — a selfish asshole who also faces an emotional comeuppance. Eliza and Jo are written as complex women whose interests are real and valid, and whose relationships stray in different but meaningful ways. It’s a bittersweet story about falling out of love.
Special features include a commentary track with Mottola, producer Steven Soderbergh and editor Anne McCabe. Also included are round-tables with Mottola, Posey, and Schreiber, and one with Mottola and Davis. The round-tables are fun and help fill in some of the stories the cast has kept for the past 24 years about shooting the film, which seems to have been a positive experience for all of them. Prior to this release, The Daytrippers was only available on a pan-and-scan DVD copy; this release has a 4K restoration with the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It’s a nice, somewhat forgotten example of what the mid-’90s indie scene was capable of producing with very little resources.