Movie Review by Liz Berry Wagner
“Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. That’s what the holiday is all about. Torture.” ~ Claudia, Home for the Holidays
This quirky, hilarious and sometimes sad little jaunt about the dysfunctional Larson family gathering during a memorable Thanksgiving weekend is one of my favorite family holiday movies. The movie is very effectively directed by the talented Jodie Foster and the cast is unbeatable.
The charming and versatile Charles Durning plays Henry Larson, the reminiscing dad who lives with blinders on - hanging on to his younger days, when the kids were small and innocent and didn’t have adult issues. The mom, Adele Larson, played by the very funny and animated Anne Bancroft, chain-smokes throughout the entire film, wearing her really bad wigs and appears to be a nervous wreck most of the time as she tries to hold her family together through all of the chaos that ensues.
The kids: Claudia Larson, played by Holly Hunter, is reluctantly returning home for Thanksgiving after losing her job and making out with her boss and worrying that her teenage daughter is going to have sex for the first time while she spends Thanksgiving with her boyfriend’s family. Her parents do not know she lost her job and are constantly talking about how proud they are of her success so she keeps it a secret to avoid disappointing them. Tommy Larson, played delectably by Robert Downey, Jr., is not supposed to be home for the holiday but decides to show up as a surprise and support system for Claudia. He brings along his friend, Leo, played by the handsome Dylan McDermott. Tommy is juvenile and misbehaves throughout the entire visit and also has a secret of his own. Someone needs to put a leash on this guy! There is a third child – eldest daughter Joanne - played by the usually funny (but not in this role) Cynthia Stevenson, who is married to Steve Guttenberg, a boring and uninteresting guy and they have two boring and uninteresting children. Joanne is prude, prissy and uptight and seems to hate her uninteresting existence.
To round out this splendid ensemble is crazy Aunt Glady, delightfully portrayed by the very distinguished Geraldine Chaplin. She is an absolute hoot as Adele’s sister and will have you belly-laughing as the out-to-lunch, babbling aunt that every family loves to have at the dinner table. I absolutely love her in this role!
At this Thanksgiving dinner table, insults are flung like poison darts from a sling-shot; sibling rivalry and dirty little secrets are revealed until all hell breaks loose. In the end, you realize that behind all the conflict, disagreements and skeletons in the closets, this is just another group of ordinary, loving people trying to find their own way while they carve out a little slice of their time during the holidays to reconnect with their roots.
The witty dialogue and the timing of the lines are right on the mark and the antics will either make you relate to your own family or help you realize just how good you have it! Beyond the hilarity, there are some tender and moving moments that will surely tug at your heart. It’s a holiday romp that’s definitely worth watching at Thanksgiving time. I really liked this movie a lot.