The Thanksgiving film is a bit of a tricky wicket, as the Brits like to say. And to be honest I’m not sure why. The points of drama are pretty obvious: who among us, trapped in a car with parents who are starved for our attentions, has not seen the potential for an angsty comedy about the return home? But there aren’t actually that many Thanksgiving films of this kind — I guess they get overwhelmed by the Christmas releases, every year — and the ones that do pop up tend to be small indie efforts like The Myth of Fingerprints(I am always the only person who knows this one, but surely out there is another Noah Wyle completist who hears me). And no, I don’t count Hannah and Her Sistersas a Thanksgiving movie, because the element crucial to the Thanksgiving movie, it seems to me, is that people leavetheir big city lives behind, not simply transpose the holiday onto their cosmopolitan Upper West Side classic-six existences.
One of those small movies was Jodie Foster’s second directorial effort,Home for the Holidays. It was released in 1995 to little fanfare — the “directorial debut” publicity push having already been expended on Little Man Tate. I think I must have been so enamored of it because, at the time, I was deep in the throes of a Claire Danes obsession; My So-Called Lifehad recently gone off the air. Unfortunately for teenage me, she was only in the movie for about five minutes. Still, though I hadn’t (until this weekend) seen it since roughly the year 2000, I’ve always referred to it as my “favorite Thanksgiving movie.” I decided to revisit this opinion.
Well, it turns out that Home for the Holidayshasn’t aged well, which perhaps explains why it’s very hard to obtain. (Your intrepid reporter may or may not have watched it on YouTube.) The premise is this: Holly Hunter is an art restorer who has just been fired from her job as she heads home to Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft. Her brother, Robert Downey, Jr., arrives with his friend Dylan McDermott. Robert Downey, Jr., is clearly gay but the family prefers not to discuss it, particularly not sister Cynthia Stevenson, who is a Republican fond of Peter-Pan collared dresses. Dinner gets served, and grease-laden hijinks ensue.