5. Tadpole (Gary Winick, 2000)
A growing-up story more in the traditional vein than the teen-storylines in The ice Storm, Tadpole is a delicious option for anyone looking for some light but meaningful viewing for Thanksgiving. Back home for the holidays, young Oscar falls in love with his own stepmother, Eve, an antidote for the “boring” girls his own age – when Eve rejects him, however, he’s picked up by another older lady, Diane, and so the unconventional love triangle of Tadpole is formed.
Sigourney Weaver and Bebe Neuwirth truly set the movie on fire as the two ladies “fighting for Oscar’s affection”, but Tadpole is also written and directed with flawless sophistication, a funny and unpredictable comedy with some real weight in its reflections about the wavering passions of youth.
4. Pieces of April (Peter Hedges, 2003)
If Katie Holmes was ever great, it was on Pieces of April, the film she will probably be remembered by. As a wayward New-Yorker daughter inviting her traditional inner-country estranged family for Thanksgiving with her black boyfriend (the always great Derek Luke), Holmes shines as a peculiar character that’s nevertheless just like us, and therefore makes a mess of everything. Writer-director Peter Hedges understands that contradiction, and that’s why his film works so well.
Pieces of April is very awkward in a simultaneously funny and serious way, conveying how weighted-down family situations will always be, simply because of the sheer amount of baggage you carry with one another. It’s a great Thanksgiving movie to watch because it so easily relates to what we all feel about our families when we get together for this holiday, and its refreshing optimism in the face of these flaws makes it a feel-good movie worth seeing.
3. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (John Hughes, 1987)
Thanksgiving might as well be renamed the “We Miss John Candy Day”, since everyone’s favorite movie for this weekend of the year is Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a never-forgotten but often underestimated John Hughes classic in which Candy plays the adorable/annoying character he was so good at playing. Here, he’s annoying/charming Steve Martin, a man who just wants to get home for Thanksgiving after his flight gets canceled.
Seems like a simplistic premise, but Martin and Candy make it great, especially since Martin’s abilities as a straight man have rarely been tested since then (and believe me, they should). This is a Hughes comedy, too, so there’s an innate sense of familiarity with his particular brand of writing, be it dialogue or comedic situations – in short, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is as good as comfort food gets, and we all know Thanksgiving is about just that.
2. The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 1997)
Now, if you want downright cynicism and an exposé of the shocking antics of American middle class even during the most family-friendly time of the year, The Ice Storm is your movie.
Ang Lee’s second American film is also the one that goes deeper into the hidden secrets of the country’s traditions, peeking beyond the façades and picket fences, which was kind of a theme in the late 90s, as American Beauty can attest. It’s the story of the Hood family: alcoholic father, self-help reading mother, skirt-chasing son and fetishist daughter.
As it reveals (and revels) in their anxieties, struggles, secrets and perversions, The Ice Storm also analyzes contemporary relationships in deep, sensitive way, watching and condemning, in a lot of ways, the artificial sources of pleasure that these characters seek. Isn’t Thanksgiving about eating too much and listening to your racist uncle’s rants while trying to stay calm? Well, not anymore, it seems.
1. Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)
Oh, the times when Woody Allen was actually making great movies… Hannah and Her Sister is one of his greatest achievements, at the same time warm and cynical in its depiction of family, sisterhood, relationships and the unifying character of the holidays. The film is framed against three consecutive Thanksgiving dinners, between which the three sisters Lee (Barbara Hershey), Hannah (Mia Farrow) and Holly (Dianne Wiest) change husbands, boyfriends, life goals and preoccupations.
In the best Woody Allen way, they’re all neurotic messes, and so are the men in their lives, brilliantly portrayed by Michael Caine, Max Von Sydow and Allen himself. It’s a sad, funny, richly romantic film made by a writer/director not yet set on his ways, but already dabbling in his idiosyncrasies. For a bittersweet Thanksgiving, there’s no better choice.
Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.