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MGM Studios DVD presents
Home For The Holidays (1995)

"I'm giving thanks that we don't have to go through this for another year. Except we do, because those bastards went and put Christmas right in the middle, just to punish us."
- Arlene larson (Anne Bancroft)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: September 04, 2001

Stars: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft
Other Stars: Dylan McDermot, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Claire Danes, Cynthia Stevenson, Charles Durning
Director: Jodie Foster

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and one scene of drug use
Run Time: 01h:43m:37s
Release Date: September 04, 2001
UPC: 027616865700
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B+B B+

DVD Review

Anyone who has lived through a family gathering at Thanksgiving or Christmas can no doubt relate to the events that transpire in the Jodie Foster-directed Home For The Holidays. For myself, each holiday seems to be a feeding ground for not only turkey and stuffing, but also fighting, name calling, and numerous servings of guilt. And that is not to say that I don't love my family more than life itself; I have just lived with them for twenty-three years and I have come to know what to expect as we all sit down at the table. Home For The Holidays understands this as well: it isn't that the characters dislike spending time with their family, but they know each other so well that they know what they are in for.

Claudia Larson (Hunter) is in the midst of a nervous breakdown. As an art restorer in Chicago, she thinks her job is going well until she is fired, but not before kissing her boss. As Claudia prepares to board a plane to Baltimore, her daughter (Danes) announces that she plans to lose her virginity while her mother is away. One would think this would be enough torture for one person to handle, but Claudia is soon back home where her mother (Bancroft) and father (Durning) each take turns driving her nuts. Soon the entire family is together, including the "black sheep" Tommy (Downey Jr.) and his friend Leo Fish (McDermott), Aunt Gladys (Chaplin) and Claudia's sister Joanne (Stevenson).

Based on a short story by Chris Radant and adapted by screenwriter W.D. Richter, Home For The Holidays works largely as set pieces for its actors. Both Hunter and Downey Jr. seem to be having fun with their roles and, to their credit, I did greatly enjoy the relationship between them, yet other characters seem underdeveloped. Perhaps the greatest example of this flaw is in Cynthia Stevenson's performance as Joanna. From the start it is clear that she and Tommy don't get along, or even she and Claudia for that matter, yet we never know why. Home For The Holidays seems more content with only focusing on the present as many back stories for the characters go by the way side.

The relationship between Claudia and Tommy serves as the emotional center of the story. The two are painted almost as outsiders to the proceedings within the family because of choices made in their youth. Claudia, whose pregnancy occurred at an early age and Tommy's relationship with his partner Jack, have each occurred far away from their hometown, leaving them to care for themselves. Foster and screenwriter Richter do a nice job of not making either of the two a central issue, and more so that the announcement of Tommy's marriage to his partner doesn't cause a stir when it is announced.

With a large ensemble cast, Home For The Holidays is certainly not lacking in acting talent. Hunter, whose presence in a film almost always guarantees quality, is wonderful here. She lends Claudia a charm that is difficult to describe; in her expressions and body language she creates one of her best performances. Robert Downey Jr. is good as Tommy and several scenes thrive on his energy, of which he has plenty to spare. Nearly every performance is of the highest caliber, with the exception of Steve Guttenberg, who seems out of place with his performance.

Making a worthwhile film about eccentric American families can often be a tough job, as most pictures focus too much on comedy and not enough on the dramatic aspects, or vice versa. Home For The Holidays works as director Jodie Foster balances moments of lunacy with moments of tenderness and love.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: With an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, Home For The Holidays isn't an eye-popping DVD, but it certainly is nice to look at. With a soft look the transfer fails to create a film-like image, yet sharpness and detail are fine. Cinematographer Lajos Koltai paints the picture with drab colors and dark grays in exterior shots, each of which looks very good. There are some moments of shimmering and edge enhancement throughout that bring the grade down a step, but overall this is a nice looking disc.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Aside from a few moments of surround activity towards the start of the picture the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is often mono-like. From the opening strums of Rusted Root's cover of Santana's Evil Ways, to the sounds of an airplane flying from the back to the front of the room, the surround speakers are active and sound great. Throughout the rest of the picture the center channel is the star as dialogue is very easy to hear and never harsh.

A French Dolby 2 channel mix is also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French and Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Jodie Foster
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: A screen-specific commentary track by director Jodie Foster is the lone bright spot in the extra features section. The track is informative and easy going as she discusses the actors, crew, and even the dishes chosen for the Thanksgiving meal centerpiece. Her best moments come as she describes her process of directing and the importance of planning each shot perfectly. There are several moments of silence throughout the track, though when Foster speaks it is as good a track as you will likely hear.

The film's original theatrical trailer rounds out the extra features.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Home For The Holidays is a good movie with just enough flaws to keep it from becoming too "perfect." MGM has produced a nice DVD worthy of the film, and the commentary by Foster is worth a listen. Recommended as a rental for those nights after a family gathering to remind you that life could be worse.


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