Thanksgiving Movie Choices: Three Oldies

The following are three Thanksgiving movie choices (to watch at home)—oldies but reliably good.

I. Pieces of April

The low-budget Pieces of April (2003) features April Burns (Katie Holmes), a 21-year-old with a new (African-American) boyfriend. She’s not only the “black sheep” of her white suburban family but also estranged from them. The film’s tagline: She’s the one in every family.

April tries to explain her place in the family to a couple of her new neighbors:

April: I’m the first pancake.
Evette: What do you mean?
Eugene: She’s the one you’re supposed to throw out.

Knowing that her mom is receiving treatment for late-stage breast cancer, April decides to ask her family to her little apartment—that happens to be in a poor neighborhood of New York—for Thanksgiving. Her parents (Oliver Platt and Patricia Clarkson), along with her brother, sister, and maternal grandmother drive from Pennsylvania, all the while regarding the pending reunion with suspicion and skepticism.

View the trailer below:

Film critic Roger Ebert: “‘Pieces of April’ has a lot of joy and quirkiness; it’s well-intentioned in its screwy way, with flashes of human insight, and actors who can take a moment and make it glow.”

II. Home for the Holidays

In Home for the Holidays (1995) adult daughter Claudia (Holly Hunter) comes home to a dysfunctional Thanksgiving gathering. Among the other guests are her brother Tommy (Robert Downey, Jr.) who’s with an apparently new boyfriend (Dylan McDermott), her conservative sister, a nutty aunt, and an old male friend her mom Adele (Anne Bancroft) wants her to get to know again.

Claudia on the true meaning of this holiday: “Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That’s what the day’s supposed to be all about, right? Torture.”

Directed by Jodie Foster, the film’s screenplay is adapted by W.D. Richter from Chris Radant‘s short story. Here’s the Home for the Holidays trailer:

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “Neither caustic nor sentimental, it’s a film that maybe half the people on Earth have at one time considered writing.”

Rogerebert.com: “…What Foster and Richter have created here is a film that understands the reality expressed by Robert Frost when he wrote, ‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in’.”

III. What’s Cooking?

The tagline of What’s Cooking? (2000): Thanksgiving. A celebration of food, tradition and relative insanity.

What’s Cooking? may best be seen on a full stomach. In this Thanksgiving movie four different ethnically diverse households in a Los Angeles neighborhood are celebrating. Represented in the film are Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish, and African American families.

Witness below:

As in Home for the Holidays, sexual orientation figures into the mix along with other themes of diversity and intergenerational struggles. Kyra Sedgwick plays a lesbian who’s with her lover (Julianna Margulies) on the holiday.

Critic Roger Ebert: “What’s strange is the spell the movie weaves. By its end, there is actually a sort of tingle of pleasure in seeing how this Thanksgiving ends, and how its stories are resolved….Here are four families that have, in one way or another, started peace talks.”

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