Warren (Noah Wyle) returns home for Thanksgiving after three years. His family consists of his over-sexed sister (Julianne Moore) and her long-suffering lover, his romantically distant younger brother, and his immature younger sister. The blackly comic story examines how each adult sibling has problems expressing feelings.
From its arty home movie title sequence and confessional opener, it's clear we're deep in "express yourself freely" country. But thanks to the presence of ER's Wyle and the consistently excellent Moore, this is one angst-ridden family saga that needn't be a totally repellent experience.
The gathering of the clan for Thanksgiving brings the four offspring of grouchy Hal (Scheider) and serene Lena (Blythe Danner) back to the sprawling country home. While elder sister Mia (Moore) prepares to do battle with everyone around the table, Warren (Wyle) tries to rationalise his resentment for his father and to rekindle his relationship with a former love. Their brother Jake brings home a free-spirited new girlfriend he can't express himself to, and youngest sister Leigh falls for Mia's new boyfriend, proving she's now entered the sexual arena.
With emotional tension festering openly, something has to give and for Warren it's the realisation that his father drove him away from home that marks him out as the focal point of the story. With so many central players and a trim running time, each character is surprisingly well-rounded. Returning to the familial home and striking a balance between being the child your parents want you to be and the fully formed adult you want them to see is scarily familiar. And given the high drama content, the few scenes played for laughs (largely courtesy of James LeGros' cameo as Mia's childhood friend) provide suitable relief.
While films dealing with emotional sensitivities can never promise to exactly zip along, this particular saga endears itself by staying firmly on the right side of slushy.