FROM THE VARIOUS HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS, I have participated in, this year will provide me with something new. Considering I have been a witness to holiday events that spanned the spectrum from elegant to outrageous, that is saying something. I was invited to a family’s holiday dinner where a fight broke out between 2 sisters at the dining room table. The one sister broke down in tears and ran out of the room; talk about a conversation killer. At another celebration, one of the family’s elders had all the little children sit around the Christmas tree; so, he could tell them the history behind several of the ornaments. That was a wonderful experience because there was a plain, lopsided star shaped, wooden ornament on the tree that had been handed down in the family for generations. I think it was someone like a great, great, great grandparent who had carved the ornament. Listening to the stories behind the tree ornaments was such a cool experience for me and they were not even my own family. As you can see just from these 2 examples, I have been to a variety of family holiday functions and dysfunctions to the point I had thought there was nothing left to surprise me. HEARING HOW THE PRESENTS WERE TO be distributed made me think a logistics company needed to be involved. One person was waiting for a group of packages to be delivered to their house. Once received, they then had to take them and drive to two family members’ houses to drop them off. At the 2ndstop, after their car trunk was empty, they were to receive a group of presents that they then had to bring back to their house. From there another family member was going to arrive to take half the packages and deliver them to relatives who lived down in the city. Several remaining packages were to be driven to relatives who lived close by. I did not have to be the driver for any of these excursions; I just had to carry the presents to load and unload from the cars that pulled into the garage. Once all the packages get delivered to the intended family members, we are going to do a video call where all of us can see each other opening our presents. I have visions of us looking like the opening credits of the TV show, The Brady Bunch; each of us in our own little tick tock box. This will be a new experience for me, and I am guessing for some of you. At least getting together this way has the potential to cut down on the type of antics that went on amongst the family members in this film festival nominee. WITHOUT HER DAUGHTER JOINING HER FOR the holiday Claudia Larson, played by Holly Hunter (The Big Sick, Broadcast News) would have to face her family alone. With low expectations, Claudia was hoping there would be little drama she would get pulled into. With Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man franchise, Due Date) as Tommy Larson, Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker, The Graduate) as Adele Larson, Charles Durning (Tootsie, Dog Day Afternoon) as Henry Larson and Dylan McDermott (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Olympus Has Fallen) as Leo Fish; this comedic romance drama had the makings of an old fashioned crazy comedy in the same vein as Bringing Up Baby or Arsenic and Old Lace. The acting was excellent from the entire cast as they played a cast of characters. Where this film falters is the unevenness between the scenes. There were some heartfelt dramatic ones that grabbed me, but then there were others that felt flat and predictable. I will say the writers did a decent job with trying to capture all sides of a family gathering. On a positive note, after seeing this film I am looking forward to having a video family gathering, that comes with a mute button. A safe and happy holiday season I wish to all of you.
2 ½ stars
THE main dinner entrée was being passed around the table, leaving wisps of steam in its path. Each guest was putting a portion of it on their plates. However halfway around the large oval table one guest reversed course and sent the platter back from the direction it had traveled. The guest on the other side who did not get a chance to take some of the entrée did not say a word. It only took the platter traveling backwards a couple of places before a guest asked everyone seated around the table if they had gotten the main course. Half the people around the table said no and the platter made its way around to the rest of the guests. By the way all the guests were related to each other. THAT guest who reversed course was a sister to the woman she snubbed sitting next to her; they do not speak to each other. As the meal progressed there was an uncle who was telling his brother-in-law what he should have done differently in raising his children. A few seats down from him was a relative who had no filters and after they took their first bite into the main entrée they announced to anyone who would listen that the food was overcooked. If that was not enough, sitting next to this individual was a cousin who was complaining to another cousin about a relative who was not in attendance who they felt had awful taste in clothing and was too heavy to wear that type of clothing anyway. To an outsider who was privy to this circle of relatives they would view all of the guests as vipers. However, not all families show their true colors to outsiders. The family in this dramatic comedy was no different. CELEBRATING his first Christmas without his wife all Walter, played by Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Shooter), wanted for the holiday was to have all of his children with him without any arguments. Considering his kids he may have wished for too much. With a cast that included Kimberly Elise (Diary of a Mad Black Woman, For Colored Girls) as Cheryl and Gabrielle Union (Think like a Man franchise, Top Five) as Rachael, the two actors that stood out the most were Mo’Nique (Precious, The Parkers-TV) as Aunt May and J.B. Smoove (We Bought a Zoo, The Sitter) as Uncle Lonnie. These 2 characters could easily be spun off into their own film. As for this picture there were some fun scenes along with a few touching ones. I do have to say if Mo’Nique and J.B. Smoove were not in the movie I would have been bored more than I experienced. The reason being was the story followed a formula for family dysfunctions. Or maybe I am just used to these types of events. Lol But seriously it was easy to figure out the punch line to the gags and jokes. For lighter fare this movie would be fine to watch if you want to chuckle or laugh, but this film does not reveal anything special. I cannot say you would get coal in your stocking for going to this comedy but maybe you might want to wait for a holiday sale.
2 ¼ stars