Home for the Holidays - * *

A dysfunctional family comedy that’s not all it thinks it is. Holly Hunter plays a single mother, returning home for the holidays (Thanksgiving in particular). Among her eccentric family members at the gathering: her obnoxious gay brother (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his companion (Dylan McDermott), her perfectionist sister (Cynthia Stevenson), her uptight brother-in-law (Steve Gutenberg), her senile aunt (Geraldine Chaplin), and of course her mother and father (Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning). All are undergoing some sort of conflict or crisis, and all will be revealed on the tumultuous turkey day. It’s obvious that the audience is supposed to immediately identify with Hunter’s character and eccentricities of relatives. However several scenes have such a comic undertone, bordering on slapstick, that the intended identification is lost. What is left is a film which sees itself as being more insightful and funny than it actually is. Jodie Foster’s direction gains good performances from her cast; yet the pacing of the film is irregular. The movie is divided into titled chapters, and the momentum doesn’t flow from one to the next. Foster has varying success with two motifs she uses throughout the film. The first, an egg motif, is a bit overstated, yet underexplained; is Foster trying to show the similarities of family members and eggs (each seems the same on the outside, but they all crack differently), or is it simply an homage to her Egg Pictures? The second, the comparison of film and memory, succeeds better. Throughout the movie, people are constantly snapping pictures or filming the events, usually at unflattering or chaotic times. Yet everyone mentions that the most memorable and poignant moments in their lives haven’t been captured on film. The film achieves a few moments of insight, but congratulates itself for more victories than it has won.

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