Home for the Holidays (1995)
Directed by Jodie Foster
Starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr, Claire Danes, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Sylan McDermott, Cynthia Stevenson, Steve Guttenberg, Geraldine Chaplin
“When you go home, do you wonder: Who are these people?”
“On the fourth Thursday in November, 84 million American families will gather together... And wonder why.”
“We'll do it every year..until we get it right”
The plot of this movie could be scripted by Hallmark, with the exception that in 1995 Hallmark did not feature a lot of LGBTQ+ characters in their films. It is the story of Claudia (Hunter), who gets fired from her job, makes out with her elderly boss, catches a cold, and finds out that her 18-year-old daughter (Danes) is planning to have sex with her boyfriend on the day she is scheduled to fly home to celebrate Thanksgiving with her parents Adele and Henry (Bancroft, Durning) and sister’s Joanne’s family (Stevenson, Guttenberg). Her brother Tommy (Downey, Jr.) is not supposed to be there, opting to spend the day with his husband and their chosen family. After he gets a panicked phone call from Claudia, he opts to show up to support her bringing his friend Leo with him.
Much of the movie is as you would expect, moments filled with family drama. However, there is a deeper commentary that comes through because of Joanne’s homophobia, fat-shaming, and judgmental attitude. At the table, she attacks him and announces to the family that he has embarrassed them all by marrying his partner Jack on a beach where people could see them. “I have friends in Boston, Tommy. Did you ever think about that? There are other people in this world. People who tell people. I mean, how embarrassing,” she tells him. However, unlike other movies at the time, instead of supporting her views his parents and sister Claudia all make it clear that they support him. It is hard not to cheer when Joanne’s new dress ends up covered with Thanksgiving food, causing her to stomp out and rush home to exercise, “the only part of her day she enjoys.”
The movie ends the next day, as Tommy and Claudia head home. Claudia gets a surprise when her brother’s friend Leo (McDermott) is on the plane, wanting to pursue their new attraction for each other.
The film has a 64% fresh critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes by critics and a 72% audience rating.
Here are a few of the best lines:
“I'm giving thanks that we don't have to go through this for another year. Except we do, because those bastards went and put Christmas right in the middle, just to punish us.” (Adele)
“Enough! You're a pain in my ass. You have bad hair. But I like you a lot.” (Tommy to his mother)
“When you go home, do you look around and wonder, "Who are these people, where did I even come from?" I mean, you look at them all, sitting there, you know... they look familiar, but who the hell are they?” (Claudia)
Robert Downey, Jr. admitted that he used cocaine while filming. He later reported that director Jodie Foster gave him a pass but told him he couldn’t keep it up in future films. He would go to prison for drug possession in 1999, after he was fired from the TV show Ally McBeal.
This was second movie in 1995 that featured Anne Bancroft and Claire Danes. The other was How to Make an American Quilt where they played the same character at different ages in life. They do not share a single scene in either movie.
In 1992, Downey, Jr. played the title role in the biopic Chaplin. In this film, Charlie Chaplin’s daughter Geraldine is cast as his aunt.
The film was a pleasant couple of hours, if for no other reason than to see the wall of phone banks at the airport and a glimpse back into what life was like in 1995.
Trivia and quotes taken from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.