A Family Affair

THE FAMILY THAT TRAVELS TOGETHER unravels together in The Daytrippers, a comedy that happily keeps catching you by surprise. Writer-director Greg Mottola's low-budget debut, shot in only 16 days, takes place in a 24-hour time frame. It starts the morning that young suburban wife Eliza D'Amico (Hope Davis) discovers what looks to be a love letter addressed to her husband, Louis (Stanley Tucci), from a mystery woman named Sandy. Instead of keeping her suspicions to herself, she charges over to her parents' house, where mom (Anne Meara), pop (Pat McNamara), little sis (Parker Posey) and her pretentious would-be novelist boyfriend (Liev Schreiber) all pile into the station wagon with Eliza and drive into Manhattan to confront Louis at the publishing house where he works.

Funny as ""The Daytrippers'' is--especially when the clan's pursuit of the elusive Louis leads them into the company of families even loopier than their own--the movie's tone is ultimately more bittersweet than knee-slapping. Mottola knows all too well the maddeningly regressive dynamics of a family trapped too long in its own company. The characters may start as cartoons, but by the end our judgments about everyone have been revised and deepened. Thanks to the superb cast and Mottola's deft touch, this modest-looking comedy proves quite memorable.