There is a point in Jodie Foster 's "Home for the Holidays" when a brother and his brother-in-law are fighting on the front lawn while the father tries to break it up by wetting them down with a garden hose.
Looking across the street at the neighbors gawking, the father snarls, "Go back to your own goddamn holidays! The movie, which is about the Thanksgiving family reunion from hell, is not exactly a comedy and yet not a drama, either. Like many family reunions, it has a little of both elements, and the strong sense that madness is being held just out of sight. Have we not all, on our ways to family gatherings, parked the car a block away, taken several deep breaths, rubbed our eyes and massaged our temples, and driven on, gritting our teeth? That is not because we do not love our families, but because we know them so very, very well.
We get that sense in the opening scenes of "Home for the Holidays," as Claudia Larson Holly Hunter discovers she has been fired from her job at a Chicago art museum, and responds by kissing her boss; she's already building up holiday hysteria. Claudia is driven to the airport by her teenage daughter Kitt Claire Danes , who confides she will "probably" experience sex for the first time over the weekend. Henry's taking a home video. Adele has brought along an extra parka in case Claudia has lost hers she has.
The Larson family home is a triumph of art direction. It has been furnished with dozens if not thousands of the sorts of objects found in mail-order gift catalogs. Not expensive catalogs, but the kinds of catalogs with 16 gifts on each page, each one a "miniature" of something you would not possibly want the full-size version of, such as a reindeer or a barbershop quartet. Henry is a retired airport maintenance man.
Adele chain-smokes all the time and can read her daughter's mind. Christmas is about finding what's holy in all of us. In the 16 years since my grandparents and father have died, I've approached the holiday season with mixed emotions.
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While I enjoy Christmas carols, roasting chestnuts and the gift giving experience, I walk a tightrope, as I try to balance my joy for the season with my sadness of the years lost to memories. So, how do I cope when my childhood Christmas home seems a million miles away? To begin, I've adopted a new definition of home. Home does not have to be physical place. Sometimes it can come in the form of a family photo album, full of memories that remind you of happier times. Sometimes home is sharing stories about our favorite holiday moments, like the times my father would take my sister and me out to play outside after a huge blizzard and how my mom would have hot chocolate waiting for us when we came home -- freezing and covered in a layer of snow.
I've also tried to carve out new traditions and make new memories.
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One of my father's favorite activities was decorating the tree, so we've added a new twist on the tradition. We still put up a regular size tree, but we've added two tabletop trees. One sits on our kitchen table, and it's so calming to dim the lights and play a game around the glow of the evergreen. It's a small change, but it makes a huge difference in my holiday happiness quotient.
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The other small tree sits on my mom's dresser in her bedroom, and when we watch TV in there every night, we can admire the pretty lights and ornaments; it makes everything feel more festive. For more opinion All hail Claudia for attending her mad, dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner so we don't have to! What director Jodie Foster does brilliantly here is start the story out off-kilter and expertly time it so that the plot lines get more absurd and the dialogue more out of control until you feel like you're on a carnival ride, along for the ups and downs.
And of course, since it's not your family, it's funny. Families can talk about any similarities they have to the Larson family.
How does this movie compare to traditional "holiday classics"? Which do you prefer? Do you feel disconnected from your family members? What do you do to create closeness and understanding between family members who are very different? Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners. See how we rate. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase.
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Common Sense says
Home for the Holidays. Funny, adult look at a dysfunctional holiday.
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