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Una Jo Blade,
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
Comfort food with controversy... but the kind of movie you can watch any day of the year!
With the exception of A WALK ON THE MOON starring Diane Lane and Viggo Mortensen, this film is easily my favorite indie film. I first saw it four years ago when my sister was home from San Diego state for Easter vacation and we rented the DVD the following day from Blockbuster. Some of the most talented names in film (Oscar-nominee Alfre Woodard, Oscar-winner Mercedes Rheul, Lainie Kazan and Joan Chen) and up-and-coming talent (Dennis Haysbert of FAR FROM HEAVEN and the ALLSTATE commercials) star in this terrific ensemble film with a brilliant script and first-rate performances most notably from Woodard, Rheul and Kyra Segewick.
The story (set throughout the Fairfax district of L.A.) revolves around four different families (focusing primarily on the women of each) all of four different ethnicities: one African-American, one Hispanic, one Jewish and one Vietnamese and the family conflicts they deal with over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Woodard's family is dealing with a marriage that is on the brink of a divorce with two subplots of an extremely irritating mother-in-law (Ann Weldon) and a troubled son in his early twenties; Rheul's family is confronting the fact that she has separated from her husband (Victor Rivers) and has moved on with her life and has a promising relationship with her boyfriend (A Martinez) despite what her son wants. Kazan's family is up in arms with her daughter (Segewick) involved in a lesbian relationship with her recently married life-partner (Julianna Margulies). Chen's family is most definitely the most dysfunctional while their daughter is involved in a relationship with a young white boy, their eldest son uses his midterms schedule as a false pretense to avoid coming home for the holidays and is seeing Rhuel's daughter and Chen's teenage son has been suspended from school for stealing a test while also being dangerously involved with a gang. One highlight of the films is where Woodard's friends come over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner and their rebellious, uptight teenage daughter wants nothing to do with any of them. When confronted by Woodard's mother-in-law about what she and Woodard's little daughter and her friend are doing, she states that "we're playing Thanksgiving... she's the mommy, she's the daddy and I'm the alcoholic, cult-worshiping, Satanic stepmother!"
The story moves in a very transitional pattern alternating between the four families with very interesting scenarios for each. Gurinder Chadha (director of BEND IT LIKE BEKHAM and the upcoming BRIDE AND PREJUDICE) has really outdone herself with the unique and oft-times exasperating ties that bring these families together. Another engaging aesthetic in this film (possibly the most important) is the incredibly diverse variety of delicious food each family cooks throughout the midsection of the film in preparation for the holiday tradition. You can almost smell the enticing scents of the apple and pumpkin pies and the turkey and mashed potatoes as well as the Asian and Hispanic dishes. The special features on the DVD of the films offers six different recipes as they were used in the actual film.
This is one film that my whole family and I love to watch every year on Thanksgiving and one we watch throughout the year as well. Go rent it sometime this weekend and see what you think. I really think you'll love it!
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