The 1990s had no shortage of dysfunctional family movies, but Jodie Foster's second (and still most recent) directorial effort Home for the Holidays (1995) sends them all packing by bringing the family together for Thanksgiving dinner. Most movies in this genre handle the wide tapestry of characters by assigning them one-dimensional, easily defined personality types, but Foster and her screenwriter, the great W.D. "Rick" Richter, fit in dozens of remarkable little moments that bring everyone into three-dimensional relief. It begins with Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter, at her pluckiest) happily at work, restoring old paintings. (The opening credit sequence is rich with information, such as using egg yolks as a base.) Unfortunately, she gets laid off, tries to make out with her boss and comes down with a cold. Her teenage daughter (Claire Danes) announces that she's spending the holiday with her boyfriend and will be having sex for the first time.

With failure and humiliation hung around her neck, she returns home for turkey day. To rub it in, Claudia loses her fancy, big city coat at the airport and must settle for wearing her mother's puffy, hideously out-of-date coat for the rest of the visit. On the plane, she calls her closest companion, her brother Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.) and begs him to come too. It's an awkward, babbling message, but touchingly honest. Tommy, a cackling, gay nutcase full of mischievous energy, does turn up and brings the sexy Leo Fish (Dylan McDermott). Claudia is single, and in a lesser movie -- Dan in Real Life, for example -- everyone in the family would pester her to find a man, as if they had no concerns of their own. And certainly the subject comes up, most heartbreakingly in a scene with the sad-sack David Strathairn as an old classmate -- a meeting arranged by Claudia's mom (Anne Bancroft).

categories Features, Cinematical