The Daytrippers

The Daytrippers (1995)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Hope Davis, Anne Meara, Liev Schreiber, Parker Posey, Stanley Tucci
Extras: Bonus Trailer, Talent Files

Imagine the Hope & Crosby ’Road’ pictures cross-pollinated with the Manhattan angst of Woody Allen and you have a beginning marker for ’The Daytrippers.’

Hope Davis plays Eliza D’Amico, a Long Island housewife whose life is turned upside down by the chance discovery of a love letter written to her husband Louis (Stanley Tucci) by someone named ’Sandy.’ Eliza brings her grief to her reactionary mother (played to shrieking perfection by Anne Meara), sardonic sibling Jo (Parker Posey) and Jo’s haughty intellectual boyfriend Carl (Liev Schrieber). Soon, everyone crams in the family station wagon, heading into the city to confront Louis about his presumed infidelity. If only they had any inkling of the tribulations, both within and without, during the long road trip to New York… Made on what has to be a miniscule budget, ’The Daytrippers’ delights with sharp dialogue, interesting characters and a very real sense of personal space, showing how people invade it under the guise of good intentions.

The full-frame transfer faithfully captures the low-saturated colors and minimal lighting usually associated with low-budget filmmaking. Black levels provide adequate shadow definition, but details lack depth and some scenes look soft. Fleshtones are natural during the daytime scenes, only to take on a pasty quality during nighttime scenes. The source is blemish-free, exhibiting a few instances where the image gets very grainy. (With faces constantly spilling over the edge of the frame, releasing ’The Daytrippers’ as a full-screen DVD seems a bit shortsighted, though.)

The dialogue-driven soundtrack, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, does a satisfactory job of imaging an active soundfield. Most of the audio’s depth comes courtesy of Richard Martinez’s evocative guitar-rich music score, frequently widening the front soundstage. The surrounds engage sparingly for music fill and ambience (party sounds, street noises, etc.). The disc offers both French and Spanish subtitles.

Special features include a trailer for another Stanley Tucci film ’Big Night’ and filmographies for the main stars and director/writer Greg Mattola. Not exactly a loaded disc, but nevertheless one that succeeds purely on the merits of its witty narrative.

’The Daytrippers’ may not dazzle with technical wizardry, but its keen sense of character and wonderful moments of family insanity paint a picture everyone can relate to. Watching ’The Daytrippers’ will make anyone realize their family isn’t so bad after all.