A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids will probably be bored by this movie when they aren't scandalized by its adult themes: It shows families as many of them really are -- filled with people who are struggling to understand their connection to and love for people they don't understand or really like. There's plenty of swearing, and at one point Joanne launches into a tirade about how disgusting and perverted it is that her brother is in love with another man. Claudia kisses her boss after being fired. Claudia's teenage daughter announces that she's going to have sex with her boyfriend while her mother's away for the holiday.
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What's the story?
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS centers on Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter), who is returning home for a big family Thanksgiving. But things aren't going well in her life. As she says in a mid-flight message to her brother, "I'm sick as a dog, and I made out with my boss, and my kid is going to have sex with a teenager. And then I got fired. Or whatever -- the other way around." Claudia's family includes her chain-smoking, chatterbox mom (Anne Bancroft); her oblivious, bitter dad (Charles Durning); her gay brother, Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.); her dotty Aunt Gladys (Geraldine Chaplin); her martyr sister, Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson); and Tommy's hot friend Leo (Dylan McDermott). Put them all together with a giant turkey, yammering children, and years of unspoken resentments and longing; mix with alcohol; and you have the ultimate family breakdown.
Is it any good?
This is no A Christmas Story, and it's not Norman Rockwell -- but that's its appeal. Home for the Holidays is an uproarious but also humane look at a family full of strangers. And we're all privileged to watch it. All hail Claudia for attending her mad, dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner so we don't have to!
What director Jodie Foster does brilliantly here is start the story out off-kilter and expertly time it so that the plot lines get more absurd and the dialogue more out of control until you feel like you're on a carnival ride, along for the ups and downs. And of course, since it's not your family, it's funny.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about any similarities they have to the Larson family. How does this movie compare to traditional "holiday classics"? Which do you prefer?
Do you feel disconnected from your family members? What do you do to create closeness and understanding between family members who are very different?
Does being different have to mean hating one another?
How would you resolve a similar situation?
How does Tommy's family in Boston differ from his birth family?
- In theaters: November 13, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: September 4, 2001
- Cast: Anne Bancroft, Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr.
- Director: Jodie Foster
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, language and brief drug use.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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