CHRISTMAS CINEMA: Home for the Holidays (1995)

Becca and I often argue over what movie we are watching next. When you have thousands of movies, this back and forth can go on all night long — particularly when the only movies I ever want to watch are The Car and Dredd.

That said, I always give in to my wonderful and glamorous wife.

Tonight, I gave in to Home for the Holidays.

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter, The Firm) is a single mom with no job, no direction and a family who she loves and hates. From her parents (Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning, both great here) to her siblings (including Robert Downey Jr.), she dreads the one-two combo of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her daughter (a blink and you miss her Claire Danes) stays home to have sex with her boyfriend over the holiday, so she flies home alone.

Throw in wacky Aunt Glady, who has never fallen out of love with her sister’s husband and the feud between siblings that has never gone away and a visiting friend (Dylan McDermott, not Dermot Mulroney) and you have the ingredients for a holiday filled with plenty of stress.

For a movie I had no interest in viewing, I came around by the end. I blame the talents of Durning, whose emotional speech about what moments matter most in life really stayed with me.

Jodie Foster made this the second film she directed after Little Man Tate, spending two weeks with the cast just improvising. It shows — everyone feels real here. And Downey Jr. credits this film as one he had fun with and bringing him back to acting, a craft he had come to be disillusioned with. That said — he kept doing heroin throughout the film, leading to an emotional letter from Foster.

What really shocked me is that the screenplay comes from W.D. Richter, who is better known around these parts as the writer of 1979’s Frank Langella starring Dracula, Big Trouble in Little China, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Needful Things. As if that wasn’t enough, he directed The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!

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