At least Claudia restores paintings because she is a failed artist unlike, say, Dana in Ghostbusters II who gets to that job after failing at cello... which I do not understand, actually. But, this is not about Ghosbusters II but Home for the Holidays. Holly Hunter’s Claudia is...
She is not having a great day. I will let her explain it to you (as she explains it to Tommy):
Hi. Hi little brother. It’s your big bad sister. Where are you? I’m on my way to Henry and Adele’s, which I know is the last place on Earth you want to drive a million miles in holiday traffic to be at, and I don’t blame you. Have Thanksgiving with your friends. I would, if I had any, which I don’t, ‘cause then I’d have to send ‘em all birthday cards, which is a lie of course, because you know I’m only looking for pity. Jesus, my my my.
I really wish you were gonna be there, kiddo, because... because I am sick as a dog, and I made out with my boss, and Kitt’s gonna have sex with a teenager. And then, I got fired. Or the other way around. Whatever. Oh my God. I cannot believe I have said all this to a machine. I hate machines. Please, get rid of this tape. It’s nothing. It’s absolutely no big deal. I’m fine. I just... I just miss you guys. Happy Thanksgiving. Give Jack a big big big big hug from me. That’s it. Love, Clyde.
Her whole life really is not going that well, actually. I think the movie never establishes what happened to Kitt’s father, though we do learn that he and Claudia were never married.
Mom and Dad
You know what I’m imagining now? Claudia and the passenger played by Angela Paton Mrs. Lancaster from Groundhog Day) getting stuck in the wrong city, then roadtripping it a la Planes, Trains & Automobiles. In my imagined version, she is Florence Lancaster, by the way, not just some random woman.
But, back to this movie. Parents... full of useless anecdotes about their lives and observations about yours that are either a bit too on-the-nose and blunt or oblique and maybe as pointless as the anecdotes. Maybe I have just known the wrong people, and their wrong parents, but I am not sure I have seen any couples in, you know, reality, that break into spontaneous dancing like Henry and Adele Larson. I think that behavior is just a cinematic conceit... nobody is that happy, or I am just too cynical.
But, I guess we want to imagine such people are real, we want to imagine our parents are that romantic, in between the moments we are disgusted that they ever had sex... I think that is a cinematic conceit as well, but it is not like that is a topic I discuss with people often. You know, how often do you think your parents have sex? Does it bother you to think about that?
And then, Tommy starts dancing with his mother. Why do we watch movies with dancing people? Is it a vicarious thing? Like, we wish our own lives involved some spontaneous dancing from time to time.
David Strathairn’s Russell “Sad Sack” Terziak is a pathetic counter to the happiness Tommy’s apparently got, and an extreme as to the negativity that Claudia’s life could be.
And chaos starts.
Then the awesomeness. My family has only ever tried the sitting-down-at-one-big-table Thanksgiving like once that I can recall. Always too many people around to do that. Nine of us in the immediate family—my parents, six sisters and me—then another generation added on, and another in the works these days. Add a few friends, the occasional random coworker who has got nowhere else to go... I think we have at least one of those this year.
(I also think I have mentioned that already.)
There will be several folding tables outside, a lot of folding chairs, several tables probably with food and drinks. And more people than I will take the time to count. A crowd going in many directions. Good food, good drink, maybe a few games (there is usually at least one).
The bad does not get better sometimes; it just lingers, gets left aside as life goes on.
The structure thing, the subtitles—life would be easier to figure out with the likes of these. But, instead, the different pieces of our lives, and the intersecting moments with our relatives and our friends and even our... well, maybe we do not have enemies, but we have got something. And, those people, and the people we like, the people we are stuck with because of blood and the people we will never meet because they live on the other side of the planet or just in the next town—all of these pieces overlap and overlap and blur together sometimes, because life just is not neat. There are no subtitles.
“We don’t have to like each other, Jo; we’re family.” This line comes before...
...which is good. Except, that line kind of is the point. Home for the Holidays is about family, and not all the cheesy, happy, positive stuff. It is family, warts and all.
And, that is kind of the point to Thanksgiving as well, the way I see it. It is not really about that mythical story about how the Pilgrims broke bread with the natives when times got tough; it is about our own ability to break bread with people we might just have to kill someday because they annoy us too much finally, or take up too much of our space, or just know too much privileged information about us.
You know: family.