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The Ending Of Planes, Trains & Automobiles Makes Me Cry Every Year

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It's not saying much calling Planes, Trains & Automobiles the best Thanksgiving movie ever. It's not like there is a lot of competition. But it's so much more than that. It's one of the best comedies ever made. There are so many great scenes ("Those aren't pillows!", "You're going the wrong way!"). Steve Martin and John Candy are so wonderful together, we are cheated that Candy died so young and they never worked together again. But as funny as this movie is, it's the dramatic shift at the end that really sticks with me.

The director John Hughes does such a phenomenal job with the reveal that Del's wife has been dead for years and he is homeless. Seeing it from Neil's perspective as he sits on the train, you have the shift from the relatable images of Thanksgiving to the funny moments they had to finally the clues about Del. It's all so well done. Almost the entire movie is shot from Neil's side of things. It opens with him at work (working for Ferris Bueller's dad?) and our introduction to Del isn't all at once which makes it feel more natural rather than immediately being locked next to this stranger selling shower rings.

Because of that, the gut punch at the end hits so hard because it's not until we are inside Neil's house does the perspective shift to Del. When that happens, his pain and loneliness is almost overwhelming. He's so happy that his friend Neil is with his family in time for Thanksgiving but you see Del look down and clutch his hat when Neil kisses his wife. It's tough to tell at first if Del is uncomfortable with public display of affection but when the camera shifts back to Del, you see that it's not him feeling awkward. It's that he misses what he lost so much.

Out of all the great comedians of the 80's whether it be Bill Murray, Chevy Chase or even Martin, none of them were ever as good of an actor as John Candy was. Bill Murray is fantastic in Lost In Translation but he's playing a version of himself. In this last shot, Candy is wordless and let's you know exactly how it feels to love someone and have them taken away from you. 

It's just a ten second shot before the freeze frame but he's doing so much. He shows real pain for a few seconds and we see the heart of Del Griffith before he quickly puts on a polite smile but the hurt is still there in his eyes. It's so impressive but even more so when you consider not long ago, we had these scene:

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I watch this movie every year and cry at the end without fail. It makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have people to spend the holidays with. I'm sure many of you are at home with your family driving you a little crazy but think of poor Del and how he'd do anything to have those same annoyances. 

If you are alone for the holiday, just know you aren't alone in being alone. Everyone has had holidays where travel, busy schedules or finances made it tough to get with friends and families. I like to believe Del never spends another holiday alone. And if this guy (as sweet as he is) can find people to celebrate with, you'll have your people soon too.

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I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and if it's a tough one, I hope next year only gets easier.