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Click above to purchase "Home For The Holidays" at amazon.com

 

Home For The Holidays

review by Zach B.

 

Rated PG-13

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 103 minutes

Starring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning

Screenplay by W.D. Richter
Based on a Short Story by Chris Radant

Directed by Jodie Foster

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Jodie Foster, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, French Stereo Surround, English Closed Captions, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Selections (16 Scenes)

Jodie Foster steps behind the camera for a second time with "Home For The Holidays," a rather funny and interesting story of family affairs. The film finds Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter), who seems to be having the worst day of her life. She's just lost her job and after that, comes to face that her daughter (Claire Danes) plans to lose her virginity while she's away. So where is Claudia going? Why, home of course! It's thanksgiving in Baltimore with the family. While Claudia is not looking forward to it, she comes to realize what family is and where she's from, as well as who she is. Add in a a set of interesting parents (Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning) and a gay brother (Robert Downey Jr.), and you have a rather sweet comedy of new self-discovery.

"Home For The Holidays" is a rather interesting movie, however, I felt within it all it felt flawed. W.D. Richter, perhaps best known for directing "Buckaroo Banzai," crafts a rather interesting screenplay here from Chris Radant's short story. I'm sure all of us, and I mean all of us, can relate to something in this movie as far as the past, childhood and family does go. Yet what I really think makes this movie so good for what it is is how it touches a lot of right notes, making things generally warm and funny. While there is laughter and inspired moments within the film, there is also a lot of great character development. This movie is fairly realistic and three dimensional in its development and evolution. We even sorta feel like we know people just like those in the film, and I think that's what Foster was going for. Still, I felt at times things did fall a little short and things weren't fleshed out as they really could have been. Things also appear a bit dull at times too, and I felt there could have some better resolvment. Overall though, this is a nice story that really brings upon true themes and issues that are important.

Foster does another great job directing, as there is great subdued meaning within characters and images. Her pacing is very nice (I like how things are divided up with titles) and she establishes good shots so we feel like we're part of this whole mess of a family. Her visual style in this movie is rather standard and not so cinematic, but there is good stuff here and there is a flow to what she does. Foster is really a great director.

The cast though is what brings this movie to life. Holly Hunter is dead-on perfect as Claudia, as she captures the characters and creates fine chemistry with everyone else. Durning and Bancroft make a fine set of parents who play off one another well, while McDermott and Downey Jr. also bring great touches to the movie. Downey is rather charimastic and charming (like usual) and brings a great sense to the brother role. And even Steve Guttenberg himself drops by!

I wouldn't call "Home For The Holidays" one of my favorite comedies, but this is a comedy that has something others don't: the laughs here aren't cheap but rather true. This movie is really character driven, rather than laugh driven, and that is certainly a good thing. The ensemble is magnificant, the screenplay is fine and Foster's directing is sweet and gentle. If you have not seen it, "Home For The Holidays" is worth checking out.

Ech. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is really flawed. I suppose the soft hazy look on the transfer could fit within the film's context, but the fuzzy look, lack of detail and undersaturated as well as underwhelming colors just make this movie look so hazy and ugly. Black levels are weak as well. Blemishes, scratches, pieces of dirt, artifacting and assorted marks are literally all over this print in what seems to be every frame. It's very annoying and very distracting. The movie is only six years old, but this transfer, sadly, makes it seem much older. I really wish MGM bothered to clean it up.

Wow, the 5.1 Dolby Digital English track is certainly impressive and really gives off a better than expected experience. Still, while it fits with the movie, it's nothing incredible and the sound does have problems. I heard some hiss and background noise in some scenes that were not so pleasing. In any case, background noises are nicely used. Traffic jams, plates being passed around, glass churning and the whole dinner scene brings a nice amount of life to the mix. .1 LFE is surprisingly good while the music, especially during the opening credits, sound very nice and again, give good life to the mix. Dialogue is crisp and easy to hear, while no sounds overpower the other and everything blends in together nicely. English closed captions, French subtitles and Spanish subtitles are included, plus a French Stereo Surround track.

I loved the Little Man Tate commentary, so I was pleased to find another Audio Commentary with Jodie Foster for her second directing outing. Like "Tate," this commentary is also really strong and Foster just sits down and fires off with so much great and assorted information. However, I was a bit disappointed as Foster offers quite a few pauses, while in the Tate commentary she just kept talking. Still, the pauses aren't a big deal and never last an incredibly long time, but there were times where I got frusturated waiting for comments. Foster shows much enthusiasm for the cast and crew as well as the production itself. The movie was made outside the studio system and Paramount released it in theaters, and according to Foster they didn't have so much say (a good thing). Foster also talks about the movie's issues and themes, symbolisms and fun things - like how Hunter is a long time poultry champion of sorts in her hometown. Personally, I like the track itself better than the film as Foster is very down to earth, intelligent and really talks to you like she knows you. Fans of Foster, the movie and those who check this out should not miss this commentary. It's one of the best I've heard in a long time and well worth listening to.

Also on this release is the full frame Theatrical Trailer. For some reason, Paramount did not release this title despite distributing it in theaters. The now defunct Polygram produced it, and somehow it's winded back at MGM.

While I wouldn't call "Home For The Holidays" a recent comedy that will be remembered as a favorite or for that time of the season, it does offer what a lot of comedies don't have: depth and great character development. While it's not my favorite comedy, it does offer good laughs, heartfelt characters and entertainment. While the transfer is terrible, the sound is good and the extras are very nice, the price is right so fans of the movie sould pick it up.

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(2/5)

(3.5/5)

(1.5/5)

(2.5/5, NOT an average)

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