In the morning on an otherwise nondescript Thanksgiving weekend, Eliza (Hope Davis) stumbles across a mash note amongst her husband’s belongings. She takes it to her parent’s house, where her mother (Anne Meara), father, sister (Parker Posey) and soon-to-be brother-in-law (Live Schreiber) aren’t able to rule the note out as a sign that her workaholic husband (Stanley Tucci) is having an affair. Unable to reach him by phone, the family hops in the station wagon and drives into the city from Long Island to get to the bottom of things. What ensues is a comical manhunt across mid-‘90s New York City.
This debut feature from Greg Mottola—whose next film would come a full decade later in the form of Superbad—was shot on a $50,000 budget, and went on to gross more than forty times that amount in the domestic box office. The comedy became such a runaway, independent hit on the strength of a script that’s truly witty, and characters that were fuller-formed than the stereotypes that would have fulfilled their same functions in lesser movies. (Even the family’s silent patriarch, played by Pat McNamara, proves to have the deepest understanding of his daughters in the rare moments he does open his mouth to speak.) The Daytrippers also does a fine job of capturing a more authentic side of the very specific, Giuliani-era NYC that was romanticized on late-Century sitcom hits like Friends and Seinfeld. The movie played particularly well in New York, understandably – there’s much to the setting and characters that’s very recognizable to anyone who’s lived in the region.
Criterion’s restored Blu-ray edition includes two lengthy, on-camera conversations between the director and cast members, a 1985 short by the filmmaker, and a feature-length commentary from Mottola. Overall, it’s a fun comedy that’s been overlooked in the quarter-century since its release. Somewhat of a surprise pick for the Criterion Collection, it’s a welcome one; chances seem good that we’ll see more indie movies from this period join their ranks as the era shrinks further into the rearview mirror.