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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/20/01

Home for the Holidays
1995 (2001) - MGM

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Home for the Holidays Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/AudioExtras): B/A-/B+

Specs and Features

103 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, keep case packaging, audio commentary with director Jodie Foster, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Based on a short story by Chris Radant, Home for the Holidays is director Jodie Foster's sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching study of the modern family relationship during the always-stressful time of year, Thanksgiving. Holly Hunter plays Claudia, a normally happy, but neurotic in her own right, single mother who struggles to love and accept her family for who they are. Her father (Charles Durning) is a recently retired airplane maintenance man, whose carefree, lovable attitude is possible only because he shuts out the world around him. Claudia's mother (Anne Bancroft) is a neurotic, overly critical aging woman who means well, but, like Claudia, has trouble accepting her family for who they really are. Robert Downey, Jr. is Tommy, Claudia's homosexual brother, whose bubbly, mischievous, clown-like exterior is compensatory for the lack of support his parents and sister Joanne have shown him. Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson) and her husband Walter (Steve Guttenberg) are uptight, conservative maniacs who are so tightly wound that the slightest deviation from the sensibilities of their own little world sends them into self-righteous chaos. And tagging along with Tommy is his associate Leo (Dylan McDermott), who decided to make the trip so he might hook up with Claudia, whom he became smitten with after seeing her picture. Take this motley crew of characters, sit them down for Thanksgiving dinner and mix up the conversation... and what you get is a nuclear reaction that leaves some alliances shattered and some closer than ever before.

Home for the Holidays is a real gem of a film. It's incredibly funny, while also remaining a touching tribute to the strengths (and sometimes even the weaknesses) of the family psychology. Home is meticulously performed, featuring outstanding turns by Holly Hunter and Robert Downey, Jr., who both successfully trot the fine line between comedy and drama.

This small scale, low budget flick has all of the trappings of great theater - both on-stage and on the silver screen. The script was beautifully written and is filled with interesting characters, each unique and important in his or her special way. The smallness of the film works to bring the viewer into the private world of this family, which draws attention directly to the characters themselves. In return, we, as the outsiders looking in, are given insight and understanding of each personality on an intimate level. Foster was able to transform a relatively large and enormously talented ensemble cast, full of actors each with the ability to carry an entire movie on their own (and many of them have), into a troupe that never steps on each other's abilities and are each given their own opportunities to shine brilliantly. Home for the Holidays is a true testament to Jodie Foster's abilities as a director of dialog-heavy, character-driven cinema.

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD is good, but not great. The transfer was sourced from a very clean print, and shadow delineation and color saturation seem fine. However, the image can become somewhat soft in certain areas of the film, and a fair amount of film grain and edge enhancement is visible in places, especially brighter scenes. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sports crystal clear dialog representation, along with crisp, nicely recorded music. It's not a flashy track, but it has wonderful fidelity and more than gets the job done.

Aside from the theatrical trailer, a commentary track with director Jodie Foster is the only other supplement found on the disc. The track is informative, as Foster spends an appropriate amount of time praising her cast and crew, but never going overboard with the kudos, as so many other directors tend to do on these commentaries. The lion's share of the track is devoted to how the film was made, and what each actor contributed to the final product. It's an insightful commentary, well worth your time to explore. The only thing that would make it better would be the participation of some of the cast members.

Don't miss Home for the Holidays on DVD this Thanksgiving - it's a great film with an ideal mix of comedy and drama. It might even give you a little insight into your own family. One of the clever things about this film is that a wide variety of personalities are present in the story (the outsider, the neurotic, the uptight, etc.) and, even though they're amplified for dramatic effect, they're reflective of members of our own families. Almost anyone will be able to identify with this film on some level, which makes it that much more entertaining.

Greg Suarez
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