Blu-ray Review: Home for the Holidays | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, May 24th, 2020  

Home for the Holidays

Studio: Shout! Factory

Oct 06, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

On the front lawn of his parents’ home, Tommy Larson tosses around a football with his brother-in-law and preteen nephew. Playful rough-housing turns into full-blown fisticuffs between Tommy and his bro-law when leftover tensions from a fraught Thanksgiving dinner – just hours earlier – boil over. Leo, a dinner guest of Tommy’s that he hopes to set up with his sister, Claudia, but whom she believes to be Tommy’s date, does his best to intervene, only to find himself with a bloody nose. Portly, white-haired Henry – the family patriarch – has no choice but to step in, pulling out the garden hose and spraying down the two grown men.

“Go back to your own holidays!” old Henry barks at the neighbors gathered to gawk across the street.

“Get inside,” his wife, Adele, urges her brood. “Before we’re on the evening news.”

Home for the Holidays, a 1995 film directed Jodie Foster, will ring true for a lot of Americans. Not that every family is as dysfunctional as the Larsons, but because many of us will at least recognize something in somebody here. As they’re written by W.D. Richter – co-writer of Big Trouble in Little China and director of Buckaroo Banzai – the Larsons aren’t that fake sort of sitcom-y zany that you see in too many film comedies. They’re the mix of pent-up emotions, unspoken admiration, lifelong grudges, and unconditional love that's reflected in the grand majority of real, American families.

The film centers on Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter), a 40-year-old single woman on her way home for Thanksgiving with her family after one of the roughest weeks of her life. Her mother and father (Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning) have been married half a century, and are still deeply united through utter co-dependence, if not flaming passion. Brother Tommy (Robert Downy, Jr.) lives with his boyfriend many miles away in Boston, though his parents are in denial. Little sister Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson) seems to live the perfect homemaker's life, with her doting husband (Steve Guttenberg) and two well-behaved children. The last two guests are their dinner table are Leo Fish (Dylan McDermott), a mysterious bachelor friend of Tommy’s, and dotty old Aunt Glady (Geraldine Chaplin), ma’s sister who lives by herself in an apartment packed with hundreds of houseplants.

Broken across smaller vignettes – separated by Woody Allen-esque title cards – the film’s comedy plays out as these richly-realized characters clash. Each has a very sharply-defined relationship to every other character at the table, and receives at least one, small moment – be it ever so brief – where they’re the most sympathetic member of the family. That’s strong writing, and the cast do better than rise to the occasion.

As the latest inductee to Shout! Factory’s Shout Select Line, Home for the Holidays hits Blu-ray and DVD in a cleaned-up HD presentation. Bonus features include a photo gallery, trailer, and commentary from Foster.


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