Home for the Holidays (1995)
November 24, 2017 5:46 PM - Subscribe

After losing her job, making out with her soon to be ex-boss, and finding out that her daughter plans to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, Claudia Larson has to face spending the holiday with her family. She wonders if she can survive their crazy antics.

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.
5 stars and 15+ from Common Sense, 65/72 on Rotten Tomatoes, and On Hulu.

1995’s star-studded Home for the Holidays is the big family movie Thanksgiving deserves
posted by the man of twists and turns (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The blockquote above is from Ebert's 3.5 star review.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:16 PM on November 24, 2017

I absolutely love this movie, and it's become a Thanksgiving tradition. There are just so many little perfect moments, like:
Joann (getting angry as they try to set the table): "I can't do EVERYTHING!"
Claudia: "Nobody asked you to."

The treatment of Tommy's sexuality, I've always found refreshing. Like, it appears to me that the parents have probably been told before that Tommy is gay (Claudia says Leo is "with Tommy" when Mom suggests she might be interested in him) - but they don't seem to know how to talk about it. Like, it's not quite real to them until Joann blurts out about the marriage.

When this movie was first released, I was myself in a period where Mom knew I was gay, but wasn't open to talking about it much. As such, that incredible moment in the kitchen between Tommy and Adele:

"Enough, Mom! You're a pain in my ass, you've got bad hair...and I like you an awful lot."
"Well, you know I can't change."
"Believe me, Mom, neither can I."

--yeah, that's always been a really powerful moment to me. That was Mom and I for about a decade. (She's gotten much better.)
posted by dnash at 9:18 AM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Holly Hunter is a national treasure. I need to pull my DVD out and re-watch this movie.
And I'll see you "Home for the Holidays" and match with "The Family Stone." Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Claire Danes in both.
posted by TrishaU at 11:44 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

"This is not my enormous coat."
posted by orange swan at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just rewatched this movie night before last. It amused me to reflect that Claudia's mother's infamous coat, which would have been purchased circa 1985, is almost back in style now. Long puffy coats are very much worn at present, though the puffy coats of today are more shaped, usually knee-length rather than calf-length -- although calf-length puffy coats are being worn too -- and usually come in neutral colours (black, gray, navy, olive, brown), not fuschia. Still, that coat doesn't look anything like as hideous and ridiculous to me now as it did back in 1996, when I first saw this movie on video. It looks almost like something someone like Claudia might choose to wear now, and one doesn't get the same full sense of just how embarrassing it was for Claudia to be caught wearing it by her high school class's former prom queen.

During this rewatch, I was interested in the "Joanne versus the rest of her family" dynamic. Her family can't stand her. And they have reason not to: she is uptight, controlling, narrow-minded, and judgmental, and the appallingly hateful, vicious homophobia she directs towards her brother far exceeds the discomfort their parents have with their son's sexuality, and that they are clearly struggling to overcome out of love for him. Joanne is obviously very angry with Tommy (to be fair, his rollicking disregard for social niceties would be hard to take, and what was with his repeated efforts to film his sister naked?) and has latched onto his gayness as grounds for being an asshole to him. You'll notice that she's very hateful towards Claudia too, without being able to find a similarly convenient excuse for it, even though Claudia is generally kind and patient with her. Her parents seem so much prouder of and more loving towards her siblings than her, and she's acting out because of it.

The whole unhealthy dynamic would have originated decades before, when she was little. Given her exacting, high-strung nature, Joanne was probably less easy to love than her fun-loving, free-spirited sister and brother, and less talented, attractive, and personable than her older sister (Claudia was evidently her parents' golden child). Her parents probably reacted with impatience and treated Joanne's behaviour, and by extension her feelings, like a joke instead of working with her to overcome some of her behavioural/personality issues, which set the tone for her siblings to do the same thing. Now, as adults, the dysfunctional pattern is set. Joanne reacts to the ridicule and contempt she receives from her family by casting herself as the responsible daughter who takes care of everything so that she can feel superior to her brother and sister. She masks her unhappiness with her conventional life -- her husband's a bore, her daughter's a smarmy little twerp, and being on her elliptical trainer is "the only thing she does all day that she likes," (ugh!) -- and her envy of her brother and sister's more interesting lives in Boston and Chicago and her parents' greater pride in them by preening herself on being morally better than Claudia and Tommy, the child who selflessly remained near by to take care of their parents, even though their parents don't yet need to be taken care of and find her officiousness annoying. In turn, her family reacts by treating her like crap, which only reinforces her view of herself and them.

It's a character/familial study of what can happen to the least lovable child in a family -- or as we might call it, the Edith Crawley Syndrome.

Fun coincidence: the night I rewatched this movie, I also watched an episode of Six Feet Under that Cynthia Stevenson (Joanne) was in.
posted by orange swan at 6:58 PM on November 29, 2019

« Older Supernatural: War of the World...   |  Podcast: Dirty John: Full Seri... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments