Is there any subject Hollywood hasn’t covered? Genres multiply faster than starlets coming to L.A. Except in one area: Thanksgiving. So this Saturday morning, as a service to the readers of Students of Jesus, I offer a handful of Thanksgiving-themed movies.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: John Hughes’ 1987 tale of two misfits trying to get home for Thanksgiving still fits like a pair of bedroom slippers. Steve Martin plays Neil Page, an uptight businessman thrown by outrageous fortune into the care of the eternally traveling salesman, Dell Griffith, played by John Candy. The two men bond in ways both manly and true. Beyond the comedy is a yearning for home, and the final scene of the film not only welcomes both of them to the banqueting table, but us as well.
Pieces of April: A wayward daughter invites her dying mother and the rest of her estranged family to her apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. In 2003 Katie Holmes, (before she became the subject of Scientological speculation) plays April, who discovers that family means more than she imagined. Patricia Clarkson, the best-kept secret in movies, plays the dying mother. The final sequence presents a view of family that shows all of us at our best. And for one day--Thanksgiving--they all get the relationships right.
Home for the Holidays: Jodie Foster has only directed three movies in her career, and she chose this tale of a dysfunctional family’s annual gathering at Thanksgiving. Holly Hunter loses her job, makes out with her ex-boss, and heads home to face the music, wonderfully supplied by Anne Bancroft, Robert Downey, Jr. and Charles Durning. This film, by the way, has one of the most interesting opening-credit sequences I’ve ever seen. It will also make you genuinely grateful for your family, because next to this crew of misfits, nearly any family looks great.
Come Christmas time I’ll suggest a list of Christmas feel-good films--like Die Hard--but until then everyone’s entitled to my opinion about Thanksgiving movies, and these three are the best of a very small bunch.