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In LA's Fairfax district, where ethnic groups abound, four households celebrate Thanksgiving amidst family tensions. In the Nguyen family, the children's acculturation and immigrant parents' fears collide. In the Avila family, Isabel's son has invited her estranged husband to their family dinner. Audrey and Ron Williams want to keep their own family's ruptures secret from Ron's visiting mother. In the Seelig household, Herb and Ruth are unwilling to discuss openly their grown daughter's living with her lover, Carla. Around each table, things come to a head. A gun, an affair, a boyfriend, and a pregnancy precipitate crises forcing each family to find its center. Written by
The script is not specific, detailed or human enough to really get to the heart of the story but despite this it is a warm, busy and enjoyable film as long as you don't expect anything too sharp
It's Thanksgiving and in the LA area of Fairfax four households come together in a mix of family and friends, each with their fair share of troubles and strife just below the surface. For the Nguyen's part, the parents try to keep the traditions of the grandparents while worrying about the acculturation of their children. In the Avila household tensions arise when one of Isabel's children invite her estranged husband to the same meal that she plans to unveil her new boyfriend. The Williams family have Audrey trying to keep a whole raft of secrets from her visiting mother-in-law. At the final house, an elderly Jewish couple struggle to come to terms with their daughter's lesbian partner while also hiding it from their visiting sister and brother-in-law. As the turkeys finish cooking, things come to a boil at each of the meals, resulting in tears, hurt, fights, revelations and some healing.
This is a rather ambitious story that doesn't quite manage to rise above the level of melodramatic soap opera but still produces an enjoyable and busy film. The film focuses on four family dramas each of which could have been a film in there own right with good writing. The decision to make this an ensemble piece with no one story dominating the running time means that the film is never dull but also reduces the penetration we make into the characters and lives in each case. This reduces the emotional involvement we can possibly feel because the stories are fairly superficial and the characters are tick boxes rather than coming across as convincing people, and their problems are fairly simple and not as deep and involving as they could have been. However, even if this leaves it as a more professional daytime TV sort of movie, it does manage to avoid the syrup sentimentality of those sorts of movies and is the better for it. The collection of stories may well mean that I never was moved that much by any one of them, but it did make the film easy to get into and kept it moving and busy.
The cast really helps as well; none of them really has the material to shine but they are part of making it feel professional (as opposed to the overwrought delivery so common in tvm's). Woodward, Haysbert, Chen, Margulies, Sedgwick, Ruehl, Harris etc, all give solid performances and help make up for the deficiencies in detail in the material. The way they all work together within their specific stories is important to and I felt that they all did well with what they were given even if the material wasn't there to allow any of them to really deliver anything approaching a barn-storming performance.
Overall this is a film that it is easy to pick holes in because it doesn't really excel as an emotional story because it has so much to cover but it does do each story well enough to keep the film moving, engaging and enjoyable. Nothing earth shattering then, but a warm story with enough going for it to make for a good film with solid delivery all round from the talented and unshowy cast.
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