Films that get travel all wrong

Heading <i>Into the Wild</i>.
Heading Into the Wild

No, no, no, no. That's not right at all.

Some films manage to perfectly capture the travel experience. They take you back to what it's like being on the road, in a certain place; they inspire you to make a similar journey.

Other films, however, films like the ones below, get it all wrong. They're full of clichés; they present unrealistic ideas of what life on the road is really like; they make you cringe at their heavy-handedness. They're just wrong.

Julia Roberts in <i>Eat Pray Love</i>.
Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Deserves some sort of award for most clichés packed into a single film. British fuddy-duddies go to India and are shocked by the crowds and the poverty; they get swindled out of their money by dodgy dealers; they get sick from dodgy food; the locals moan about arranged marriages. Oh and the central Indian actor – Dev Patel – is English. I watched this on a plane and only got about halfway through before I could take no more.
See instead:
The Darjeeling Limited

Eat Pray Love

<i>The Beach</i>, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Maybe Elizabeth Gilbert is just really, really lucky. She goes to Italy and feasts on amazing food. She goes to India and is spiritually awakened. She goes to Bali and finds love. Most travellers, meanwhile, can't afford much beyond bread and cheese in Italy, spend a few weeks staring at things they don't understand in India, and then get drunk with Australian backpackers in Bali. But I guess that wouldn't make much of a film.
See instead:
The Talented Mr Ripley

The Beach

I've both seen and read The Beach numerous times because it's just so freaken good. However, it's also responsible for the untold thousands of Western backpackers who descend of Thailand every year looking to recreate the film's travel utopia. Of course they never manage it. They just sit around Kho Pha-Ngan drinking Changs and talking about the Premier League. But that's close enough.
See instead:
City of Ghosts

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Here's how trips to Barcelona go in Woody Allen land: American students go to Spain to study; they live in a mansion; they befriend an artist who whisks them off in his plane for a weekend away; they embark on some sort of love square involving people who look like Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johannson and Rebecca Hall. Here's how trips to Barcelona go in my world: Australian backpacker goes to Spain for a holiday; stays in dodgy hostel; meets other Australians and drunk English people; embarks on a love affair with overpriced paella; goes home.
See instead:
The Spanish Apartment

Road Trip

OK, so any film starring Seann William Scott probably shouldn't be looked at as a serious examination of the travel experience. It's basically American Pie On Wheels as a bunch of college students roam around their homeland in various vehicles getting up to sexy mischief. Of course what really happens on road trips is that you argue with your partner a lot about directions, the kids hit each other in the back seat, and you wind up staying in a string of horrible roadside motels.
See instead:
National Lampoon's European Vacation

Australia

Not a travel film as such, but more of a romance epic with a side of Tourism Australia advertising. What was supposed to inspire foreigners to trek across oceans and continents in search of this amazingly beautiful, character-filled land, just kind of made most of them think... Meh.
See instead:
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

In Bruges

Really, really good film. However, the only flaw is its central premise: that Bruges sucks. This tale of two criminals holed up in the historic Belgian city always rang slightly false for me because anyone who's been there would know that Bruges – home of canals, waffles, mussels and beer – is great. In fact I could think of few places in Europe I'd rather be trapped with two miserable Irish hitman.
See instead:
Casino Royale

Into The Wild

Erm, I'm all for getting off the beaten track, forging your own path and doing something completely different. All that stuff. But when you boil this down it's essentially the story of a guy with very little knowledge of survival in the outdoors who ventures into Alaska in search of adventure and truth... and dies - because he has very little knowledge of survival in the outdoors. Awesome.
See instead:
The Motorcycle Diaries

Sex and the City 2

Admittedly I haven't even seen this film because the trailer sent me into a fairly pointless rage against four moronic American women running around the Middle East in skimpy outfits, riding camels and talking about shopping. The basis of the film seemed to be the trials of travelling through a "weird" Muslim country with its own set of laws. Riveting.
See instead:
Three Kings

Which films do you think get the travel experience all wrong?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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