Plot: Claudia (Holly Hunter) is about to travel to her parents’ home for Thanksgiving, but she’s been flooded with bad news just before she leaves. In addition to feeling under the weather, Claudia was fired from her job, kissed her elderly boss, and learned her young daughter planned to lost her virginity over the holiday weekend, so a lot of information to process on the plane ride. But she pushes through and arrives, only to have her mom grill her with questions and critiques, but at least her dad is just happy to see her and doesn’t add to the stress. Some good luck comes when her younger brother Tommy (Robert Downey, Jr.) shows up, as she can vent to him and he is always able to cheer her up in times like these. But he also has a new friend with him, Leo (Dylan McDermott), who she is instantly attracted to. As the holiday moves on, the drama never slows down and family dysfunction is a constant, but will this trip back home prove to help Claudia get back on track?
Entertainment Value: This is well worn ground, the whole dysfunctional family gets together for the holidays premise, but Home for the Holidays is one that that mostly avoids the schmaltz. Most movies of this kind have a few moments of dysfunction, then focus on the healing process, but this movie embraces the dysfunction and accepts that it is rooted within these characters. So while it does lean on some “feel good” moments, they’re still steeped in dysfunction. But the movie also shows the warmth and value of family, just in a more twisted style than most films. This one boasts an impressive cast, with Holly Hunter, Dylan McDermott, Charles Durning, Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Claire Danes, Cynthia Stevenson, and Robert Downey, Jr. all on deck. Downey, Jr. turns in a manic, relentless performance that was fueled by heroin and remains quite memorable. The cast seem to run with the dysfunction and the chemistry is effective, so the arguments, banter, and revelations all shine here. Of course, I love dysfunction and unstable characters, so this one works much better for me than most similar films would. So if you appreciate good performances and high dysfunction, give this one a look.
No nakedness. No blood. This is a drama/comedy that deals with family dysfunction, so the absence of those elements isn’t an issue whatsoever. Although there is a strange bond between Claudia and Tommy that borders on creepy, so perhaps in another world, they would have went the Lannister route. The dialogue is a lot of fun, with constant fights and banter. I am sure not everyone will appreciate the pettiness and dysfunction, but I love this kind of stuff. No one is above the drama either, as all the characters dive in and sling mud with each other. I found Geraldine Chaplin’s eccentric aunt to be a highlight, as she provides numerous moments of awkwardness and provides an interesting level of depth in her somewhat limit screen time. But all of the characters here have their moment to shine, even Guttenberg playing against type as the uptight douche. This one earns a point for how dysfunctional everyone is, but at heart this is still a comedy aimed at a more mainstream audience. So it does push a little more through the schmaltz than most, but sticks within the usual genre conventions otherwise.
Overall Insanity: 1/10