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
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.