There are two films that I like to watch come Thanksgiving time: Jodie Foster’s “Home for the Holidays” and Gurinder Chadha’s “What’s Cooking?”
Both films are light-hearted comedy-dramas featuring ensemble casts as they prepare for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Home for the Holidays” (1996) was Jodie Foster’s second directorial effort and was shot on location in Baltimore, Maryland. The cast included the brilliant talents of Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., the late Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, a young Claire Danes, Cynthia Stevenson, Steve Guttenberg, Geraldine Chaplin, Amy Yasbeck, and David Strathairm.
The story followed Claudia (Holly Hunter) as she loses her job in Chicago, makes out with her soon-to-be ex-boss, and finds out that her daughter plans to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend’s family and to have sex with him. Claudia then battles an oncoming cold, loses her coat at the airport, and deals with the travel nightmare that is Thanksgiving. In Baltimore, Claudia’s parents joyfully meet her at the airport and sit in traffic like everyone else to spend the holiday with family, including her quirky, gay brother, Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.), his new friend, Leo (Dylan McDermott), her eccentric aunt Glady (Gerald Chaplin), uptight and super organized sister (Cynthia Stevenson), and her lovebird parents (Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning). Will she be able to survive all their crazy antics enough to survive Thanksgiving dinner?!
“What’s Cooking?” (2000) followed four very different ethnic families in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district, including the Nguyen family led by Trinh (Joan Chen) and video store owner Duc (Francois Chau), the Avila family matriarch Lizzy (Mercedes Ruehl) and her family, the Seelig family, a tradional Jewish family with parents (Lainie Kazan and Maury Chaykin) and their visiting daughter, Rachel (Kyra Sedgwick) and her live-in lover, Carla (Julianna Margulies). Audrey Williams (Alfre Woodward) planned to the nth degree a contemporary Thanksgiving dinner for her mother-in-law, Grace (Ann Weldon), who had her own recipes and traditions, her always at the office husband, Ronald (Dennis Haysbert), and her friends Paula (Shareen Mitchell), James (Gregory Itzin), and his Goth daughter, Monica (Mariam Parris).
Some how, some way, these four families come together as they share their own traditions and Thanksgiving dinner drama.