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Thanksgiving Movie Tradition

November 26, 2008


as published in the Oxford Town

“Well, that was absurd, let’s eat dead bird.”

-Tommy’s Thanksgiving prayer, played by Robert Downey Jr. in “Home for the Holidays”

Typically if I love a movie and watch it over and over, I buy it. But, starting in the mid-90s I began my traditional rental of a great Thanksgiving film, “Home for the Holidays.”

It is the one film I will never buy because there is something delicious about sneaking away from family every year and running to the local video store where I scan the shelves until I come across this delightful little film.

It never really is Thanksgiving until I rent it.

Directed by Jodie Foster, the film stars Holly Hunter as Claudia Larson, a single mom heading to her parents house for the big holiday. But before she gets there, she gets fired from her job, ends up making out with her boss and agrees to let her teenage daughter spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend’s family so they can “do it.”

Her parents, Adele and Henry (played brilliantly by Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning) are your average white, middle-class parents that lead simple lives. Greeting you at the airport with stories of health issues and worry over the way you are living your life, it is pretty much every visit a girl can have when she goes home.

I could always relate to the film when I was younger because the crazy family, the aunt that gives away lamps to strangers and makes froot-loop necklaces, the estranged siblings that don’t quite connect (although for me it was cousins), and the one brother who is the closest thing to a best friend. For Claudia, this brother is Tommy, played by Robert Downey Jr.

Like any good brother he ends up revealing all of her embarrassing secrets that happened before she got there thanks to her leaving a desperate message to come help her survive at home. But Tommy has his own secrets that send the family into a huge brawl.

But now that I am older, a single mom in her 30’s, I find myself seeing the film in a different way each year. And it is all because of the fish.

Actually his name is Leo Fish, played by Dylan McDermott. After a few misunderstandings, Claudia finally realizes that he is not dating her brother, but is in fact visiting in order to meet her. He reminds Claudia that everyone’s family is crazy and his saneness during their family chaos helps her move forward and give him a chance. Not to mention, it is the blue-eyed, dreamy Dylan McDermott.

And if you can’t relate to strange family members or singlehood in your 30’s, you can always just enjoy the film for one of the best holiday fight scenes ever. Over the Thanksgiving meal, the family friction explodes until turkey ends up all over a few of the characters, the aunt confesses her love to her sister’s husband in rhyme, and everyone ascends into meltdown mode.

I’m not typically a reviewer to give away so much plot, but no matter what I tell you about this film, you just won’t “get it” until you see it.

In a week filled with turkey, crazy family, and too much football, it is always nice to find a little tradition that is just your own, something you can carry with you from year-to-year. My life may change, and frighteningly become much more like Claudia Larson’s, but no matter what changes I encounter, I can always go “Home for the Holidays.”

If you’ve never seen this classic holiday gem, rent it, but not until next week. This week, it’s mine.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Leslie permalink
    May 27, 2010 7:33 pm

    Great review. This is one of my all time favorite movies. I usually watch it 3-4 times throughout the year. I own it so it’s always handy when I have the urge to see it again 🙂

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