For Claudia Larson (Hunter) this year's Thanksgiving holiday is beginning to look far from celebratory. Leaving behind unexpected unemployment and a 15-year-old daughter (Danes) hellbent on spending a weekend of cherry popping with her boyfriend, Claudia heads back to her Baltimore homestead to join in the turkey-tinged celebrations with her less than functional family.
Jodie Foster's second venture behind the camera, after Little Man Tate, once again sees her in laid-back, gentle comedy territory, albeit backed up by an all-star cast, and taking a theme that will touch upon many a nerve - being forced to spend quality time with the folks back home.
Included in this family line-up are the uptight mom (Bancroft), an ever-so-slightly insane pop (Durning), her gay brother (Downey Jr.) her repressed sis (Cynthia Stevenson) and a drivel-spouting spinster aunt (Geraldine Chaplin).
And that, really, is all there is to it. Over the course of three days tempers fray, roast dinners fly, romance blossoms between Claudia and fraternal friend Leo (Dylan McDermott), and over a protracted, hilarious Thanksgiving nosh-up familial tensions reach boiling point.
There are few surprises on offer here; the comedy is engaging without ever being side-splitting, the dramatic conflict convinces without going overboard, and the denouement, feelgood as it is, can be spotted a long way in the distance. But Foster's directing prowess shines through, casting a radiant, somewhat ironic glow over the action and wresting note-perfect playing from the large ensemble cast, particularly the permanently bemused-looking Hunter and the childishly appealing Downey Jr..
As a portrayal of smalltown sensibilities and family values, Home For The Holidays doesn't break new ground, but it's likeable in that cosy, wet Sunday afternoon, family sort of way.