This week marks one of America’s big national holidays. Thanksgiving. Every year, on the fourth Thursday of November, America engages in a tradition of food, family, football (in some cases), maybe some games, then more food.
Most of the people I know look forward to Thanksgiving. Most however, do not look forward to the actual dinner event. As with every major holiday gathering that involves family, one can be overcome with a sense of dread. There are boatloads of movies that cover all aspects of the Christmas holiday, but there aren’t too many that cover Thanksgiving. The one I can name off the top of my head that is by far the best holiday family gathering movie is Home for the Holidays.
Released in 1995, the film was directed by Jodie Foster and starred Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Steve Guttenberg and Clare Danes. Quite a cast wouldn’t you say?
Holly Hunter plays Claudia Larson. She’s a single mother, who right before she leaves for holidays, loses her job, makes out her boss, and finds out her daughter is most likely going to lose her virginity over the holiday weekend. Not that she has enough to deal with, she has to deal with a flight back to her hometown to spend the holiday with her nerve wracking parents, Henry and Adele (Durning and Bancroft). Upon arrival at the airport, she sees her parents waiting for her at gate and you begin to feel the sense of dread she is experiencing at that given moment. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this movie are the little nuances it has. There is a scene that takes place on the drive home from the airport where Claudia, while stuck in the car with her parents rambling on and on, she looks over at the car next to them and there is a grown man stuck in the exact situation she’s in. He looks over at her as if to say “My God, someone help me!!” and the looks she gives back is full of sympathy and understanding. Those are the moments that really make this movie work. As you watch it, you can’t help but think of how you know exactly what these people are going through.
After arriving at her parents house, Claudia seems to run on auto pilot just going through the motions. That is until her brother Tommy shows up. The relationship between brother and sister that is portrayed in this movie is something that anyone with a sibling can relate to. He’s infuriating and irritating, but the sibling love is apparent.
Robert Downey Jr. of course, delivers. It’s amazing he was able to pull this role off since he has spoken of using black tar heroine during the filming (see this part of his interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio here). He also gets some of the best lines in the movie as well.
After going rounds with her brother, her sister, her parents, her crazy aunt and the friend her brother brought home, Claudia manages to make it through the weekend no worse for wear, but with a little more insight into the craziness that is her family. As she leaves her parents at the airport, you can tell she is grateful to be going home, but also a little sad as well.
Home for the Holidays is an entertaining look into a holiday family gathering. You watch the movie thinking “Thank God I don’t have to deal with that!” and then you get to your own family gathering. Even if you don’t have to deal with the level of drama or crazy that Claudia endures, everyone has at least one family holiday gathering story they can tell.
I think the greatest thing about this movie is that it shows what family really is. Infuriating, irritating and lovely all served with most likely, dry turkey. So for anyone who has a gathering on their calendar, I suggest watching Home for the Holidays. I watch it every year and am thankful that my family isn’t quite that crazy.