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June arrives freighted with possibility. It brings summer’s first act, and the trappings of the season loom in the imagination: barbecues and beach trips, some time out of town if you’re lucky. The promise of June is one of escape: from winter, from the school year, from everyday life into a more magical and sun-dappled one.
While Hollywood’s offerings for summer escape have, in recent years, tended toward superhero blockbusters, I’m partial to the more mundane fare of the summer vacation comedy. The rough formula: Optimistic travelers set out on a trip; there are plot twists they could never have predicted (bad guys? romance? sunburn?); there might be some gross-out humor; there’s definitely a sappy emotional interlude where we all learn something about ourselves before returning to our regular lives changed for the better.
The film doesn’t have to have been released in the summer months to qualify, but many classics of the form, like “The Hangover,” “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” have been. And while the trip depicted need not be a literal vacation, the film must have that break-from-the routine vibe that summer implies.
My earliest vision of the perfect summer was formed by the road-tripping Griswold family in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Some of my favorites in the genre include “The Way Way Back” (a boy escapes his dysfunctional family’s vacation by sneaking off to a local water park), “Girls Trip” (best friends travel to New Orleans) and even “Thelma and Louise,” although (spoiler alert!) we don’t quite return to our regular lives in that one. Ideally, there’s a beach or resort setting (as in the recent “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” and “Palm Springs”) where I can imagine myself poolside with a fancy cocktail and a floppy hat.
A worthy new entry 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 getaway. A queer retelling of “Pride and Prejudice,” the film is joke-dense and zany, and it offers the vacation movie’s signature double-dose of escape: first into the movie, then off on an island adventure. As Elisabeth Vincentelli writes, it is “impossible to resist a movie that uses ‘Legally Blonde’ as a verb and in which two men adorably bond over Alice Munro short stories.”
I’m partial to getting outside while the weather’s nice. But it’s comforting, especially on super-hot days, to retreat indoors for a few hours, into the world of the summer vacation flick. Even if you don’t set off on a family road trip or shack up with your chosen family in a house on the beach, these movies offer reliable and welcome relief.
Have a favorite summer vacation film? 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.
? Reading: NPR picked books that evoke each of the 50 states.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
Strawberry Spoon Cake
At the beginning of strawberry season, I always devour them straight out of the container, usually on the walk home from the market. It takes a few solid weeks of this kind of instant gratification before I’m ready to bake anything with them. And then I immediately want to whip up Jerrelle Guy’s fantastic strawberry spoon cake. I don’t know of a fruit dessert that’s easier or prettier, with a one-bowl batter covered in crimson berries that let their sugary juice run all over as the cake bakes up, tender and warm. Yes, you can make it with thawed frozen strawberries, but fresh fruit holds up slightly better during baking. It’s also excellent made with raspberries and blackberries, so bookmark the recipe to go back to all summer long.
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Iga Swiatek vs. Coco Gauff, French Open final: Swiatek stunned the tennis world here in 2020, arriving as a relatively unknown teenager and winning the entire tournament without dropping a set. Now, at age 21, she’s playing her best tennis yet: She is ranked No. 1 in the world and has won five straight tournaments. Gauff, an 18-year-old American in her first final, thrives on clay, the surface that the French Open is played on and one that has long bedeviled U.S. players. 9 a.m. Eastern today on NBC
For more: Swiatek “has grasped — in Jedi Knight fashion — the full powers at her disposal,” The Times’s Christopher Clarey writes.