Monday, November 25, 2013

Film: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (d. Jodie Foster; 1995)

While I respect Michelle Dean, a talented writer who covers popular culture as "an editor-at-large" at, I disagree with her article assessing the 1995 film Home For The Holidays.  I think that my major bone of contention is that Ms. Dean believes the film has not stood the test of time.  

"I had somehow forgotten, in the intervening years, that the chief point of crisis in this film comes when Cynthia Stevenson makes a long speech about how disgusting it is that her brother married his lover."

This scene is a climactic moment of the film, and also involves an hilarious sight gag handled by Robert Downey, Jr. (as the brother, Leo, who is gay) with a turkey flying into Cynthia Stevenson's lap.  But the scene is an indicator of precisely why the film remains a relevant one.  

Don't we all experience some degree of dysfunction while sitting around a table and sharing a meal with family?  Old sibling rivalries re-emerge, jealousies are rekindled, parents continue to irritate their children, and in-laws feel like outlaws.  Sisters and brothers, no matter how close they once were or still are, will push one another's buttons because they know which buttons to push.  When they get together, they roughhouse a little too hard and act immaturely.  Adult children are annoyed at how their parents continue to behave exactly as they did twenty years ago.  These adult children also are frightened because they see their parents aging, and becoming more vulnerable, and less ominpotent.  

Sadly, the drama of Cynthia Stevenson's characters speech, in which she expresses her complete revulsion for her brother's sexual orientation, still plays out at family holiday dinners today. Eighteen years later, we still do not have same-sex marriage, and thus the same civil rights, for people who are gay. Many adults who are gay still have not come out to their families.  And 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ teens

So, while I continue to hold Ms. Dean in high regard, I stand by my opinion that Jodie Foster's film is germane even nearly two decades later.  Families will continue to fight at holiday dinner tables, and there will always be someone who disapproves of the way another family member leads his or her life.  And, oh my, the performers and their performances still are pertinent and meaningful.

Cast:    Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Geraldine Chaplin, Robert Downey, Jr., Dylan McDermott, Cynthia Stevenson, Steve Guttenberg, David Straithairn, and Claire Danes.

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