Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is having quite the day—she’s sick, she’s been fired, she tried to make out with her former boss, and her teenage daughter (Claire Danes) tells her that she’s going to spend the holiday with her boyfriend and have sex for the first time. Claudia is heading home to Baltimore to spend Thanksgiving with her parents and siblings, and to make matters worse, she’s already lost her brand new cashmere jacket at the airport and is seated next to a chatty woman on the plane. She’s been dreading this trip, especially since she found out her brother Tommy isn’t going to be there—he’s the only one who could make it more bearable.
It isn’t long after her plane touches down that Claudia is reunited with parents Adele (Anne Bancroft) and Henry (Charles Durning), and the interrogation begins—where’s her coat?, where’s her daughter?, and what’s going on with her job? Somehow Adele knows what happened! While Claudia loves her parents they can be a bit much—her mother has even arranged for a meet-cute with one of Claudia’s former boyfriends, handyman Russell (David Strathairn). Things look bleak for Claudia until her obnoxious younger brother Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.) makes his surprise arrival, with handsome stranger Leo Fish (Dylan McDermott) in tow. Claudia is thrilled to see her brother, but worries about why Tommy’s longtime boyfriend Jack isn’t there. Jack’s parents have never been accepting of his lifestyle, but Claudia loves her younger brother.
As the weekend goes along, we meet the rest of the dysfunctional family—the loopy Aunt Glady (Geraldine Chaplin), and Claudia’s stick-in-the-mud older sister Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson), her investment banker husband Walter (Steve Guttenberg), and their two young children. There is some bad blood and resentment between Joanne and the rest of the family. Everyone tries to hold in their feelings and comments, and just enjoy the holiday weekend, but it’s not long before people start getting on one another’s nerves and things culminate in a hilariously-awkward dinner scene where the floodgates open and all of the feelings, declarations and dirty laundry comes rushing out.
Home For The Holidays does a nice job of blending the more dramatic themes of acceptance, getting older, lost loves, and more with lighter, really humorous ones. The highlight of the film is the amazing dinner sequence. I thought the end of the movie kind of fizzles out afterwards, but I could watch that dinner scene over and over again. The cast assembled for the the film is incredible, and each of them really play off one another well as things completely fall apart over Thanksgiving dinner. As I was watching this, I was thinking that it’s a shame that we don’t really see Holly Hunter in more comedic roles these days—she can be so much fun! While Robert Downey Jr.’s character in the film can be quite obnoxious, he’s also a great source of humor, and Downey has a lot of hilariously improvised scenes throughout the film.
Shout! Factory has produced excellent new transfer for this Blu-ray release. The video looks amazing, with a rich, clean picture with a pleasant amount of film grain, and colors look wonderful in both interior and exterior scenes. I can’t imagine the film looking any better than this. The Blu-ray offers both a 5.1 and 2.0 audio track. Both provide clear dialogue, but I didn’t notice any great difference between the two tracks, except when there was music playing in the soundtrack. Overall there didn’t seem to be much use of the surround channel.
As for bonus material, this release ports two features from the original 2001 MGM DVD release—an excellent audio commentary by director Jodie Foster, and the film’s theatrical trailer. There is also a new 7-minute production photo slideshow. It’s a shame that Shout! didn’t do some new retrospective interviews for this release, which have become common for a lot of the Shout Select titles. This film has an amazing cast and I would have loved to hear them reflect upon the experience over 20 years later.
Home For The Holidays is spine #32 in Shout! Factory’s Shout Select line of Blu-rays. The disc comes packed in a standard HD keepcase, but instead of the traditional reversible cover insert, the inside artwork is just a fun picture. (Note: The white dot in the artwork below is due to a hole punch in our review copy—the released version does not have this.)
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.85:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Commentary By Director Jodie Foster (1:43:00)
Jodie Foster provides an entertaining and insightful commentary throughout the film. This was Foster’s second time in the feature film director’s chair. She talks about the story, casting and production process and shares some interesting behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes about things from her own family and holiday traditions that made it into the film. This audio commentary was originally recorded for the 2001 MGM DVD release, so it’s fun to hear Foster make statements like she believes Claire Danes will be a big actress one day.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:06)
- Gallary (7:18)
Slideshow of nearly 100 production and behind-the-scenes photos, which auto-advances every 4 seconds. This galllary is new for Shout! factory’s release.
Home For The Holidays has an amazingly-talented cast. The story of dreading going home for the holidays is something many people can relate to. The film culminates in a hilariously unforgettable dinner table scene, which alone makes this film definitely worth checking out. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release includes a stellar new video transfer that makes this a must own for any fan of the film. While the Blu-ray ports over the commentary track from the previous DVD release, the only new bonus feature is a photo gallery.