Guest Post: 7 Reasons Crossroads Is The Best Road Trip Movie Ever
It’s been a decade since the release of Britney Spears’ misunderstood road trip movie Crossroads. The film was initially derided as an awkward, contrived and cynically packaged marketing exercise, but now, finally, the critical landscape is ready to accept the truth: Crossroads is a masterpiece, and the greatest road adventure ever committed to celluloid.
Why? Well, there are dozens of reasons, but here are the top seven…
1. The story. Crossroads is a both a literal and emotional journey. The plot sees three small-town friends – the shy Lucy (Britney Spears), popular Kit (Zoe Saldana), and pregnant Mimi (Taryn Manning) – travel across America so Mimi can audition for something and fulfill the dream she’s held for at least the first 12 minutes of the movie.
But this is no shallow teenage odyssey – these girls are on a journey of self-discovery. Forget your preconceptions of Crossroads as derivative fodder for the early 2000s Myspace and MTV audience; this is an original and skilfully crafted coming-of-age chef-d’oeuvre.
In the space of an indeterminate length of time, the three lead characters face life-changing conflict and decisions. This transforms them from girls – who don’t think about practical things like maps, accommodation, car tax or bike insurance – into almost-women of responsibility and self-determination.
In many ways Crossroads packs a far greater emotional journey punch than, say, The Motorcycle Diaries. Ernesto Guevara is no Lucy Wagner.
2. The star. As Lucy Wagner, Britney Spears creates one of the most iconic female protagonists in film history.
Her narrative arc is compelling. Dramatic. She changes from a girl who’s musically talented but shy, to a girl who’s musically talented but not quite as shy. And even though the film is partially about her sexual awakening, she maintains a thoroughly wholesome all-American-ness throughout. This is the work of a seriously amazing actor.
In fact, Britney’s acting is mesmerising throughout the film. She does it all, acting sad, happy, conflicted; no emotion is beyond her acting range. Her lack of acting employment since Crossroads just goes to show that she acted so well in 2002 she has nothing left to prove.
3. The Themes. While the casual viewer might see only facile fun and friction, Crossroads is really about the things that matter. Things that matter to young people. Things like love. And friendship. And there’s stuff about date rape and teen pregnancy too, which in no way feel like token issues lazily shoehorned in to engineer credibility by association. It’s deep.
And it gets deeper. Road trips movies are about vehicles, and Crossroads is both a road trip movie and a vehicle; it’s a star vehicle – showcasing Britney’s acting talent – and it’s a vicarious vehicle, transporting us through the kind of intelligent and seminal cinematic adventure that comes along maybe once in a generation.
Even the movie’s title, Crossroads, is a reference to the metaphorical crossroads encountered by its characters.
Basically, this is a movie that works on every possible thematic level.
4. The Cameos. While this vehicle is driven by the star quality of Britney Spears, Crossroads has several excellent supporting performances. Lovable dork Justin Long has a close-but-no-cigar bedroom scene, playing a desperate nerd trying to lose his virginity with a partially-clothed and smokin’ Britney. The scene is incredibly plausible.
Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall plays against type as a vacuous, materialistic narcissist. In her role as Brit’s mother, Cattrall enjoys some of the most authentic-sounding dialogue of the film. Her performance is veritably the opposite of stilted and awkward.
Best of all, Dan Aykroyd plays Brit’s father Pete. Some people say Dan Aykroyd hasn’t done anything decent since Ghostbusters. They say he doesn’t care anymore. But Crossroads is proof that argument just isn’t true. There’s no way he phoned this one in. No way.
5. The Poetry. One of the best scenes in the movie comes when Britney recites a poem from her notebook by the campfire. Brit informs us she’s Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman by reading aloud lines like, “I used to think I had the answers to everything, but now I know that life doesn’t always go my way.”
It’s a stunningly eloquent and insightful exploration of complicated teenage emotions. In just one minute of screentime, Britney simultaneously lends a lyrical complexity and high-brow gravitas to the already nuanced film, and establishes herself as the feminine voice of her generation.
If there can be any criticism of Crossroads – which is difficult because it’s pretty much perfect – it’s that there should be more poetry.
6. The Dreamboat. The professionally handsome man-actor Anson Mount plays Ben – Britney’s on-screen love interest. Ben is a dream. A hunk. He’s a good-looking rebel playing by his own rules. At one point he smoulders so hard he threatens to reduce vulnerable Britney to a puddle of yearning oestrogen.
Anson’s completely believable chemistry with Brit is momentarily jeopardised when one of the girls admits he’s a criminal; maybe even… a killer. Yes. I know. Edgy.
But it turns out Ben was actually arrested on a technicality – for crossing the border with his step sister to escape their abusive father. Making him the most selfless and noble criminal of all-time. And even hotter. And probably one of the best-written characters ever.
7. The Music. It’s actually impossible to imagine how Crossroads has only achieved a score of 3/10 on IMDb when you see the incredible karaoke scene in the movie. Picture this: Mimi tries to sing, but is useless. So Britney steps in. To begin with, she’s very shy and isn’t particularly good. People heckle. They heckle Britney!
But they don’t know what’s coming. None of us could. Suddenly – and this is so unexpected, it blew me away – it turns out that underneath all the shyness and awkwardness Lucy/Britney is actually amazing at singing. Amazing. She’s a natural. She sings ‘I Love Rock’n’Roll’. And people love it. They can’t believe how wrong they were!
With ‘head fakes’ like this, it’s possible that Crossroads isn’t only the most underrated road trip film ever, but the most underrated film. Of all time.
About the author: Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He is a full-time digital scribbler and part-time appreciator of Britney Spears. He has worked as a travel editor for gapyear.com, but watching Crossroads was his greatest adventure. In his spare time he eats bacon.