Jodie Foster has taken a lighthearted look at the imperfections in all of us and, with a great big wink of her eye, reminds us that we can get through it if only we will laugh. --

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Home For The Holidays" is director Jodie Foster's shrewd exaggeration of all the little things that add up to the ruined expectations that envelop families during the season that is now known ironically and inadequately as "the holidays."

The annual mandate that compels people to seek instant family harmony where none exists on a daily basis is a fertile field for humor, and Jodie Foster marches through it with all flags flying. She must have told her good actors to ladle on the excess and have fun with their roles, because they all go over the top in the highest of spirits. This is one of those times when excess simply emphasizes the awfulness of a situation. After all, if families were perfect, they'd live near each other, wouldn't they?

On the day before Thanksgiving weekend, single mom Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) loses her job, hears from her daughter that she plans to lose her virginity, catches a terrible cold, and boards a plane. To stave off the panic brought on by each of these events, she bares her soul to her brother's answering machine, begging him to join her at the family Thanksgiving.

Within moments, she is mired in the trappings of the most crowded time of the year: flying, traffic, family photographs, the town parade. And then there's her family, which has one of everything: overbearing Adele Larson, played to wicked extreme by Anne Bancroft; everlovin' Dad (Charles Durning); the cutup gay brother (Robert Downey Jr.); and Leo, the mystery guest.

Best of all, get ready for Aunt Glady, who owns 210 plants, wears a Fruit Loop necklace, and delivers a sodden solo rendition of the Thanksgiving hymn to an embarrassed silence. Geraldine Chaplin makes Glady universal.

Cynthia Stevenson pours her great comic timing into Claudia's sister, Joanne, the fastidious member of a disorderly family, a proper daughter in a gang of clowns. She is the earnest counterpoint to the chaos that surrounds her, and she'll keep trying to set everything right if it kills her.

It's all here: the arguments about food, the table that looks fine for twelve seconds until the carver starts the carnage. A Jumbo size Coke bottle sits on the festive table in silent mockery of the collective effort. A hundred sentences are begun and interrupted. They know exactly how to pounce on each other's hot buttons. The final sweetness that creeps in is the only jarring note in this madcap look at the annual American lunacy.

Jodie Foster has taken a lighthearted look at the imperfections in all of us and, with a great big wink of her eye, reminds us that we can get through it if only we will laugh. "We don't have to like each other, Jo; we're family," Claudia says. But Dad says it even better: "I'm giving thanks that we won't have to go through this for another year--but we will because the bastards threw Christmas in the middle." Amen.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Paramount
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h43m


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