RORY: On the bridge, that’s where we’re gonna eat?
Jess tells Rory that they will be having sharing their picnic on the bridge over the lake, a place in Stars Hollow that he has grown fond of. Later it will become a special place for he and Rory.
The scene of them having a picnic is a homage to the 1958 Southern Gothic comedy-drama film The Long Hot Summer, directed by Martin Ritter. The screenplay is partially based on the 1955 Tennessee William’s play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and three works of William Faulkner, one of Rory’s favourite authors (she can’t resist Southern Gothic).
In the film, Paul Newman plays Ben Quick, a crude, magnetic young man with a bad reputation for burning down barns who is expelled from his town and forced to go elsewhere. Joanne Woodward plays his love interest, rich girl Clara Varner, who fights their sexual tension all the way, but eventually falls in love with him. It turns out the enigmatic drifter’s bad reputation is undeserved, and he is actually very ambitious.
The Long Hot Summer received excellent reviews from critics, but didn’t do well at the box office. Paul Newman won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his role as Ben. It’s been turned into a television series twice, once in the 1960s, then again in the 1980s.
This is another film with a bidding war over a picnic basket, which the masterful Ben wins, itself a homage to the auction in Oklahoma! There is a scene of Ben and Clara sharing their picnic near a bridge, similar to Jess and Rory on the bridge. In the scene, the icy Clara begins to thaw out to Ben, and reveal some of her true self. In the same way, this is the first time that Rory really begins to open up to Jess. Bridges are symbols of transition, showing that Rory and Jess are moving into a new stage of their relationship.
There is a strong hint from the film that Jess is not as black as he has been painted, and there is a foreshadowing of his hidden ambitious streak.
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward fell for each other on set, and married shortly after the film. Alexis Bledel and Milo Ventimiglia also dated in real life while filming Gilmore Girls.