Oscar History

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April Showers: "Home For the Holidays"

waterworks each weeknight at 11. This particular installment of April Showers was first published in 2009.

One of the greatest disconnects I've ever had between consensus response to a movie and my own reaction was in 1995 when Jodie Foster's second film Home for the Holiday debuted. It was mostly ignored by the public and the critics were out for blood. Maybe Jodie Foster had just been too successful and too lauded and it was time for the pendulum to swing back? Perhaps the undercurrent was along the lines of 'Does she have to be good at making movies in addition to acting in them?'

Even Robert Downey Jr playing Tommy got bad reviews for his performance as teh gay brother to Holly Hunter's Claudia. Though his performance is pretty out there with his needling rapid fire joking -- he's consistently pushing things too far -- it's also exactly in line with the movie's own sense of humor. And Bonus points: the sibling chemistry between Claudia and Tommy is pretty damn credible. If you're not familiar with the movie I urge you to rent it. You protest: But it's one of thousands of quirky dysfunctional family holiday comedies! I counter: it arrived before that ultra specific genre was wildly over saturated and it's actually very funny.

Holly's shower scene is fairly typical of the movies fast, funny and familial nature. Anne Bancroft, playing Adele the mother, is talking at Claudia but not really with her. Claudia is talking at Adele but not listening. They're on different pages and both of them never shut up. The older woman exits the scene leaving her daughter showering in an open bathroom...

Mom, close the door behind you okay?
okay, no problem, I usually shower in public.
I have no pride.
I have no rights.
I'm only four years old.

I don't need to tell you that Holly Hunter is one of the funniest people in the movies and she was still in her incredible prime at the time (roughly 1987-1998). She makes every pause and emphasis count in a line reading. So many laughs to be had in four sentences. After Claudia is done complaining about the unplanned exhibitionism, she gets down to business. She's vigorously shampooing, suds flying, until she freezes in place with a gasp. Her mischievous brother is lumbering towards the shower curtain like some comic monster.

I swear to god, Tommy, I'm naked in here and I am too old...


Holly's blind recoil from the polaroid flash is the split second punchline and Foster immediately cuts to the next scene, no time to waste... more rapid fire joking to follow.

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Reader Comments (7)

I love love love that movie!
the dinner scene is wonderful (and horrible) and SO real it's frightening!
family holidays are fests for crazy people!

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMuniel

I have sung this film's praises for years. Absolutely adore it. The cast is truly staggering in it's random and thorough fabulousness - beyond the perfection of Robert Downey Jr and Holly Hunter is the inconceivable notion I that I could find Geraldine Chaplin and Steve Gutenberg equally charming.

I adore that shower scene. Almost outdone by the car sequence in which Tommy keeps pulling away right when Claudia is going to get in. Sibling shenanigans captured perfectly.

This is my family's "thanksgiving" movie. Our "christmas" movie is The Ref. Both imperfect, like the families depicted, but utterly watchable.

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJesse

thank you for this post! I saw the movie after reading, like you mentioned, all the rather bad critics, because I like Jodi Foster. And I was so pleasantly surprised and could not understand all the negativness. But I remember thinking that I might be too superficial and knowing too less about good movies. So I am very happy to read that you liked it! And although it is now over 10 years ago that I've seen it, the great shower scene and the other scenes mentioned by Muniel and Jesse came immediately back to mind. And this is a good sign for a movie, isn't it?
I have to rewatch it.

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

Yes... I have to admit I watch this movie every Thanksgiving and it just gets better with each viewing!

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

I have an Aunt Glady in my family

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Great movie :) I'm really surprised it didn't get more recognition. Two of my favorite performances from Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr.

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

I hold this film in such high regard. One of the best dysfunctional American family movies that makes me laugh and cry every time I've watched it. The whole cast is on fire. I saw Cynthia Stevenson at Arclight Hollywood a few months back and thought of her performance in this film - her scenes with Holly Hunter are gold.

April 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjk
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