Relax and enjoy the holidays now that the election is over (well, for some of us). For those of us who have endured a year of horrible events, it’s time to put on some comfy trousers, gather with loved ones, and stuff our faces with turkey and cranberry sauce.
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The COVID-19 pandemic, on the other hand, means we can’t this year. Gran and Grandpa might have dinner together for the first time in a long time.
But before we all get too depressed, let’s take a look back at some of our most memorable Thanksgiving dinners.
Here are seven films that remind us of what we’re “missing” this Thanksgiving as we shine a spotlight on long-held grudges and unclean laundry.
1. Home for the Holidays (1995)
It’s one of Jodie Foster’s funniest films, starring Holly Hunter as Claudia Larson, a recently fired art restorer who returns home to Mom and Dad’s after her daughter (an instantly recognizable Claire Danes from My So-Called Life) announces that she’ll be spending Thanksgiving with her new boyfriend. Aunt Glady’s inebriated outbursts, lawn wrestling, and the iconic basted-turkey-on-the-loose moment are all part of the mayhem. The ensemble is the real draw here, with Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, and Robert Downey Jr. as the film’s gay brother rounding out the group in a classic ’90s fashion.
2. The House of Yes (1997)
Parker Posey has a devoted fanbase for a reason. There is no one else in Hollywood with her combination of smart wit, eccentric attitude, and impeccable comedic timing. This black comedy, which takes place in 1983, stars Tori Spelling as the Jackie Kennedy-obsessed twin sister of Josh Hamilton’s Marty, who invites his chirpy fiancee Lesly (played by Spelling), home for Thanksgiving. There was no way Marty and Lesly would make it to the altar, let alone through the night of their wedding reception. (Have I mentioned how close the twins are to being incestuous?) Rotten Tomatoes’ low reviews aren’t indicative of the quality of the film. One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
3. The Ice Storm (1997)
Connecticut’s wealthy engrossed with their own woes? Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi” are two of his most notable works, and this eerie film is one of his greatest. Kevin Kline plays a frustrated businessman who is having an affair with his hot-to-trot married neighbor (Joan Allen) in November 1973 against the backdrop of Watergate and the advent of key parties (Sigourney Weaver). Tobey and Christina’s kids (played by Christina Ricci and Tobey McGuire, respectively) are busy experimenting with their own changing bodies and new drugs. As a result of an unfortunate turn of events, the film’s characters undergo subtle but profound shifts, each of which is both desperate and unnerving in its own way.
4. Pieces of April (2003)
Because if you have ever hosted more than one person over for dinner and had things go horribly wrong, this film is for you. April (Katie Holmes) invites her family, including her breast-cancer-ridden mother (Patricia Clarkson), to Thanksgiving dinner in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Derek Luke (Derek Luke) is her Black lover. The oven is not working. April isn’t much of a cook. In the end, her neighbor’s good intentions save the day. If you can overlook the subplot about the dodgy (but not really sinister) lover, which mines stereotypes and definitely wouldn’t fly today, this is one to add to your Thanksgiving canon.
5. Krisha (2015)
Trey Edward Shults (Waves) made his directorial debut with a low-budget indie film that stars members of his real-life family and takes place in his parents’ Texas house. During Thanksgiving dinner with her estranged relatives, his aunt Krisha Fairchild plays the title part of a recovering alcoholic who has a disastrous relapse. His relative died from an overdose, and Shults was inspired to write about a family reunion that turned into a nightmare. Even though it all seems harsh, it is, and that is what makes it so compelling to witness. In addition, Shults was an intern on Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” when he was just 18 years old.
6. August: Osage County (2014)
Is it possible to see Meryl Streep lose it? Watching a movie for any other reason would be a waste of time. This gruesome film, based on Tracy Letts’ Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play, tells the story of a dysfunctional family’s desperate attempts to grieve after the death of the patriarch (Sam Shepard). On the day after Thanksgiving, however, it is not. In spite of this, I couldn’t leave out the scenes in which the Westons and their significant others (Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor and Chris Cooper and Abby Breslin and Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney and Julianne Nicholson) sit around a table trashing each other while chowing down on delicious food and wine.
7. The Farewell (2019)
This touching drama also has nothing to do with the upcoming holiday. Alcoholism and incest are not the focus of this story. Instead, it’s a surprisingly personal look at the measures taken by family members to safeguard the people they care about most. Awkwafina plays Billi, a Chinese-born, American-raised woman who returns to Changchun, disguised as a guest at a wedding, in a film written and directed by Lulu Wang. What’s the real deal? The family has decided not to notify her about her beloved Nai Nai’s terminal illness, despite the fact that doctors have given her only weeks to live. It has some of the best food moments ever, and it’s not only touching.