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Home for the Holidays

Visiting family during the holidays can be more painful than dental surgery, and Home for the Holidays (1995) entertainingly depicts the strain adult children can feel when returning home to face their siblings and aging parents. The movie stars Holly Hunter as Claudia, a Chicago art restorer who's about to have a very bad day. After learning she's been fired from her museum job and then realizing she's getting the flu, Claudia must get on a plane and head home for a much-dreaded Thanksgiving with her seemingly normal but dysfunctional family. Mom (Anne Bancroft) is a chain-smoking control freak and Dad (Charles Durning) is a former airport maintenance worker struggling with the aimlessness of retirement. Gay brother Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.) is — an outrageous prankster who pushes the limits of the family's patience, but provides Claudia with support and comic relief — has brought along his handsome friend Leo (Dylan McDermott) as a potential beau for Claudia. Add to the mix perfection-seeking, anal-retentive younger sister Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson), her equally uptight husband (Steve Guttenberg), and crazy Aunt Glady (Geraldine Chaplin) and you have the makings of a holiday dinner from hell. As the weekend progresses, tempers flair, old grudges surface, and things go downhill quickly. When a family shouting match turns into a brawl on the front lawn, Durning screams at the neighbors, "Go back to your own goddamn holidays," while Bancroft quips, "Get in the house everyone before we're on the evening news." With a script by W. D. Richter (adapted from a short story by Chris Radant), director Jodie Foster blends just the right amount of comedy, family drama, and romance to give the film a sense of real truthfulness without being a downer. As she articulates in her audio commentary, Foster has infused the film with elements of her love/hate relationship with her own family and the struggle to look past the idiosyncrasies of these relatives we didn't choose and find a way to love them in spite of themselves. With outstanding performances from the very talented cast, Home for the Holidays wonderfully portrays the nostalgic desire to go back home and the less-than-romantic reality that sometimes awaits one there. MGM's DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Supplements include a mildly entertaining audio commentary with Foster and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Kerry Fall

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