IT SEEMS that any Thanksgiving movie is also, without fail, a sister movie: two sisters, brothers and sisters, or mothers of sisters with their girls. When family gathers, siblings of every stripe are part of the picture, and hilarity (or desperation) tends to follow. For those making any version of sister connection this holiday, we’re serving up an order of films that might make you appreciate your own family’s brand of dysfunction. Somebody please pass the DVD.
Eliza (Hope Davis) thinks she is happily married to Louis (Stanley Tucci). When she finds a mysterious love letter to her husband, she and her whole family (including her sister, Jo, played by Parker Posey) leave their suburban lives behind to venture into the Big City in a station wagon to try to learn the truth.
•THE FAMILY STONE
OK, so this Sarah Jessica Parker movie takes place over Christmas, not Thanksgiving. No matter–the family dynamics are the same, whatever the major holiday. And though the film packs in plenty of implausibility, it’s worth seeing a decidedly non-Sex and the City SJP as the uptight girlfriend of Dermot Mulroney, and Claire Danes in action as her scene and guy-stealing sister.
•HANNAH AND HER SISTERS
It might not be the best sister movie ever, but then again, it just might be. Hannah (Mia Farrow), and her sisters (Dianne Wiest and Barbara Hershey), eat, talk, laugh, kvetch their way through every permutation of love and relationship in yet another Woody Allen (pre-creepy-stepdaughter-marrying days) love letter to Manhattan. Sit back, and enjoy the ride.
“When Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) goes from Chicago to Baltimore to visit her family for Thanksgiving, her parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft) are poised at the airport gate, ready to film her arrival with their video camera. ‘I can see your roots, Claudia,’ her mother whispers sweetly during the car ride home. The car is marooned in traffic just then, so Claudia peers longingly into a neighboring car. A stranger, apparently another adult child who has just been nabbed by his parents, is mouthing a cry for help.”
It’s not that you can’t go home again, it’s that sometimes, you HAVE to. Holly Hunter? Jodie Foster directing? Just say yes.
•THE HOUSE OF YES
This oddball send-up of more traditional “home for the holidays” films is bizarre as only an incest comedy can be. What would Thanksgiving be without Tori Spelling and a little brotherly-sisterly love?
•THE ICE STORM
Is this the darkest family drama ever made? Maybe not, but it goes up in the pantheon with Ordinary People. It’s Thanksgiving 1973, and Tobey Maguire and Christina Ricci’s suburban family is frozen and falling to pieces. A perfect film by the eerily brilliant Ang Lee.
•THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS
You think your parents are uptight? Ha! I’ll see that frosty reception to your new boyfriend, and raise you one. Bart Freundlich (aka Mr. Julianne Moore) shows you just how mean bluebloods can be. What else do you expect on Thanksgiving?
•PIECES OF APRIL
This is the one to see if you’re experiencing Thanksgiving Dinner performance anxiety. Even rebellious downtown girl April (Katie Holmes) is stressed out about cooking turkey for her uptight suburban family. It doesn’t help that her mom might be dying. A quirky, touching and surprising little film.
•SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Admittedly, this has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. But don’t you always want to watch Jane Austen with your sisters? This is the best of the best, whether you’ve seen it a million times, or never. Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson (who also wrote it) are so totally brilliant as the Dashwood sisters that you may never tolerate another BBC Austen-fest again. The second perfect Ang Lee film on this list. And the men? Hunky Greg Wise? Irresistibly rakish and charming Hugh Grant? Sigh.
• WHAT’S COOKING?
It seems that for Americans of every ethnicity, Thanksgiving means sports on TV for the men, and lots of cooking for the women. Anglo-Indian director Gurinder Chaha gives a loving and lush look at four L.A. families celebrating the holiday with all the angst and appetite required. Whether you do the holiday with mac ‘n cheese, spring rolls, tamales or sweet potatoes on the side, it’s all here in this odd little dish of a film.–Paige Smith Orloff