June arrives loaded with possibility. It brings the first act of summer, and the trappings of the season spring into the imagination: BBQs and trips to the beach, some time out of town if you’re lucky. June promises escape: from winter, from the school year, from everyday life into a more magical and sunny one.
While Hollywood’s summer vacation offerings have gravitated toward superhero blockbusters in recent years, I’m interested in the more mundane fare of summer vacation comedy. The rough formula: optimistic travelers hit the road; there are plot twists they could never have foreseen (villains? romance? sunburn?); there might be some gross humor; There’s definitely a juicy emotional interlude in which we all learn about ourselves before returning to our normal lives changed for the better.
The film doesn’t have to have been released in the summer months to qualify, but many classics of this form, such as The Hangover, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Little Miss Sunshine, have been released. And while the journey depicted doesn’t have to be a literal vacation, the film does need to have that break from the routine that summertime implies.
My earliest vision of the perfect summer came from the Griswold road trip family on National Lampoon’s Vacation. Some of my favorites in this genre are “The Way Way Back” (a boy escapes his broken family’s vacation by sneaking into a local water park), “Girls Trip” (best friends travel to New Orleans), and even “Thelma and Louise”. ‘ although (spoiler alert!) we’re not quite going back to our normal lives in this one. Ideally, there’s a beach or resort setting (as in recent Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar and Palm Springs) where I can picture myself sitting by the pool with a fancy cocktail and a floppy hat.
A worthy addition to the genre, debuting on Hulu this weekend, is “Fire Island,” Andrew Ahn’s romantic comedy about a group of friends (including Joel Kim Booster, Margaret Cho, and Bowen Yang) on their annual beach vacation. A quirky retelling of Pride and Prejudice, the film is full of wit and wacky, and offers the double dose of escape typical of vacation movies: first into the movie, then off to an island adventure. As Elisabeth Vincentelli writes, “It’s impossible to resist a film that uses ‘Legally Blonde’ as a verb and in which two men adorably bond over Alice Munro short stories.”
When the weather is nice, I like to be outside. But especially on extremely hot days, it is beneficial to withdraw into the house for a few hours, into the world of the summer holiday strip. Even if you’re not heading out on a family trip or settling into a beach house with your adopted family, these films provide reliable and welcome relief.
Do you have a favorite summer vacation movie? Tell me about it.
WEEKENDS ARE FOR…
🍿 Movies: A Rwandan Thriller is among our international streaming picks.
🖼 Art: La Guardia’s new terminal promises to be an art destination.
📚 Read: NPR selected books that evoke each of the 50 states.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
Strawberry Spoon Cake
At the beginning of the strawberry season, I always devour them straight from the can, usually on the way home from the market. It takes a solid few weeks of that kind of instant gratification before I’m ready to bake anything with it. And then I immediately want to whip up Jerrelle Guy’s amazing Strawberry Spoon Cake. I don’t know of a fruit dessert that’s simpler or prettier, with a one-bowl batter covered in crimson berries that spill their sugary juice all over the place as the cake bakes, tender and warm. Yes, you can make it with thawed frozen strawberries, but fresh fruit keeps a little better when baked. It’s also brilliantly made with raspberries and blackberries, so save the recipe to come back to throughout the summer.
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Iga Swiatek vs. Coco Gauff, French Open final: Swiatek stunned the tennis world here in 2020 when he arrived as a relatively unknown teenager and won the entire tournament without dropping a set. Now, at the age of 21, she is playing her best tennis yet: she is number 1 in the world and has won five tournaments in a row. Gauff, an 18-year-old American in her first final, is thriving on clay, the soil on which the French Open is played and that has long plagued US players. Today at 9 p.m. Eastern on NBC
For more: Swiatek “has seized – in Jedi Knight fashion – all the powers at her disposal,” writes Christopher Clarey of The Times.