Home for the Holidays (1995 film)

Home for the Holidays is a 1995 American family comedy-drama film directed by Jodie Foster and produced by Peggy Rajski and Foster. The screenplay was written by W. D. Richter, based on a short story by Chris Radant. The film's score was composed by Mark Isham. The film's narrative follows Claudia Larson, a young woman who, after losing her job, kissing her ex-boss, and finding out that her daughter has plans of her own for the holiday, departs Chicago to spend her Thanksgiving with her dysfunctional family.

Home for the Holidays
Home for the Holidays film.jpg
North American theatrical release poster
Directed byJodie Foster
Screenplay byW. D. Richter
Story byChris Radant
Produced byJodie Foster
Peggy Rajski
CinematographyLajos Koltai
Edited byLynzee Klingman
Music byMark Isham
Distributed byParamount Pictures (North American theatrical)
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (International theatrical and home media)
Release date
  • November 3, 1995 (1995-11-03)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[1]
Box office$22.1 million[1]

The film features an ensemble cast, including: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Cynthia Stevenson, Claire Danes, Austin Pendleton, and David Strathairn.

Home for the Holidays was released theatrically on November 3, 1995, by Paramount Pictures in North America and by PolyGram Filmed Entertainment worldwide. The film received mixed reviews from critics who appreciated Foster's direction and Hunter's and Downey's performances, but criticised the screenplay. The film grossed $22.1 million against a budget of $20 million.


Claudia Larson, a single mom who has just been fired from her job as an art restorer due to budget cuts, flies from Chicago to spend Thanksgiving at the Baltimore home of her parents, Adele and Henry Larson, while her only child Kitt decides to stay home and spend the holiday with her boyfriend. As she is dropping her mother off at the airport, Kitt informs Claudia that she intends to have sex with her boyfriend for the first time while she's gone. While on the plane, Claudia makes a phone call to Tommy, her younger brother and confidant, who she believes won't be attending the Thanksgiving dinner, telling him that she lost her job, made out with her boss, and knows that her daughter is going to have sex with her boyfriend.

When Claudia arrives at the airport, she is greeted by her parents, who drive her to their home and help her unpack. Claudia remarks that she's thinking of looking into new careers, and her mother concludes that Claudia lost her job, which she initially denies. That night, Tommy arrives with his friend Leo Fish, whom Claudia believes to be his boyfriend. Claudia is glad to see her brother but fears that he and Jack, his boyfriend, have broken up.

The next day, more family members arrive, including their eccentric Aunt Glady (Adele's sister), who once was a very bright Latin teacher but now shows signs of dementia. While returning home after picking up groceries, Claudia runs into a girl she used to go to school with. As Claudia feels diminished by talk of her divorce, Leo comes to her aid. The next family member to arrive is Claudia's resentful, conservative sister, Joanne Wedman, accompanied by Joanne's stuffy banker husband Walter and their two spoiled children.

On Thanksgiving Day, a series of mishaps occur. Aunt Glady professes her love for Henry, and Tommy accidentally spills the turkey all over Joanne and goes too far with his jokes. Joanne, in turn, reveals to everyone that Tommy married his boyfriend Jack in a beach wedding several months before. Their parents are hurt that they weren't told, and Adele retreats to a hidden pantry by the kitchen, where Claudia attempts to console her.

After the meal, Kitt calls Claudia to say that she's fine and she's decided not to have sex with her boyfriend. Tommy, Leo, Walter, and Walter Jr. play football while Henry washes everybody's cars. When Walter gets frustrated by Tommy's and Leo's bending the rules, he spikes the ball on Tommy's classic GTO causing the brothers-in-law to fight. Walter wrestles Tommy onto the ground and threatens him and Tommy accidentally punches Leo who's trying to break them up. Henry sprays his son and son-in-law with the hose, and the Wedmans jump into the car and leave, soapsuds and all.

The family returns inside, where they talk for a while. The phone rings a second time, and Henry answers; it turns out to be Jack calling. Before handing the phone over to Tommy, Henry says that he's happy for both of them.

Adele insists that Claudia and Leo drive Aunt Glady home, then deliver leftovers to Joanne's family. Claudia goes down to the Wedmans' basement, where Joanne is exercising, to talk to her. Joanne says, "If I just met you on the street...if you gave me your phone number, I’d throw it away." Claudia responds "We don’t have to like each other, we're family".

On the drive home, Leo tells Claudia that Tommy showed him a picture of her, and he came to Thanksgiving to meet her. The two talk for a while in the living room at her parents' house; but Tommy, who is sleeping on the floor, wakes up and reminds Leo that they have to get an early start in the morning. Claudia retreats upstairs to her room; Leo follows her, but is unable to persuade her to let him in.

Early the next morning, Claudia wakes up and sees Tommy and Leo driving away. She goes downstairs and reminisces with her father for a while, before being taken to the airport and getting on her plane. Before the plane takes off, Leo gets in the seat next to her, and they fly back to Chicago together.



Foster during the filming

Screenwriter W. D. Richter adapted a short story by Chris Radant that appeared in the Boston Phoenix.[2] Executive producer Stuart Kleinman sent Jodie Foster the screenplay with a note that said, "It's a complete mess and I love it."[2] Foster agreed and decided that it would be her second directorial effort (the first was Little Man Tate). Castle Rock Entertainment was originally going to finance the film but canceled. Foster's own production company, Egg Productions, acquired Richter's screenplay.[3] She struck a deal with Paramount Pictures to distribute the film theatrically and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment to handle the international rights and domestic video and pay television.[4] These rights now belong to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer through their acquisition of PolyGram's pre-1996 library.

Foster said, "The great challenge was to find a beautiful idea to pull through it, a narrative line that would make the story work."[2] Foster met with Richter and together they brainstormed and "had great fun thinking up new details and lives and clearing up the relationships," Foster remembers.[2] They worked on the script so that the film reflected Foster's point of view and her own life experiences.[3] She showed the first draft to Holly Hunter who agreed to star after reading it.[5] Working with a $20 million budget,[6] Foster spent ten weeks filming in Baltimore with a two-week rehearsal period. She used this time to get input from the actors about dialogue. If a scene of speech did not ring true, she wanted to know.[3] She picked the city because it was the "prototype of the American city. It's dangerous, east coasty, urban. Yet it still has a hopeful quality to it."[2] Principal photography began February 1995.[4] Filming of the Thanksgiving dinner took more than ten days, using 64 turkeys, 20 pounds of mashed potatoes, 35 pounds of stuffing, 44 pies, 30 pounds of sweet potatoes, 18 bags of mini-marshmallows and 50 gallons of juice that stood in for wine.[2] Foster allowed Robert Downey Jr. to improvise, which got him excited about making films again after a period of time where he became disillusioned with acting.[7]


Home for the Holidays (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
LabelMercury Records
ProducerMark Isham
Review scores
Allmusic      link
  1. Rusted Root – "Evil Ways" 4:03
  2. Mark Isham – "Holiday Blues" 4:46
  3. Nat King Cole – "Candy" 3:51
  4. Tom Jones – "It's Not Unusual" 2:01
  5. Mark Isham – "Blue Nights" 9:25
  6. Mark Isham – "Birth of the Cool Whip" 2:53
  7. Dinah Washington – "Trouble in Mind" 2:50
  8. Mark Isham – "Late Night Blues" 4:59
  9. Mark Isham – "Medley of the Very Thought of You/With Us Alone" 2:42
  10. Ray Noble – "The Very Thought of You" 4:25
  11. Nat King Cole – "The Very Thought of You" 3:47
  12. Janis Joplin – "Piece of My Heart" 4:14


Box officeEdit

Home for the Holidays was released on November 3, 1995 in 1,000 theaters and grossed US$4 million in its opening weekend. It went on to make $17.5 million in North America.[8] The film earned a further $4.7 million internationally for a worldwide total of $22.1 million.[1]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes Home for the Holidays has an approval rating of 64% based on reviews from 50 critics. The site's consensus states: "Much like a real-life visit Home for the Holidays, this Thanksgiving-set dramedy can get a little bumpy – but it also has its share of fondly memorable moments."[9] On Metacritic the film has a score of 56 out of 100 based on reviews from 15 critics.[10] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade C+ on scale of A to F.[11]

In his three and half star review, Roger Ebert praised Foster's ability to direct "the film with a sure eye for the revealing little natural moment," and Downey's performance that "brings out all the complexities of a character who has used a quick wit to keep the world's hurts at arm's length."[12] Janet Maslin, in her review for The New York Times, praised Holly Hunter's performance: "Displaying a dizziness more mannered than the cool, crisp intelligence she shows in Copycat, Ms. Hunter still holds together Home for the Holidays with a sympathetic performance."[13] In his review for the Boston Globe, Jay Carr praised the film for being "filled with juicy performances that expand resourcefully beyond what we think are going to be their boundaries, the film carries us beyond our expectations. That's what makes it so pleasurable."[14]

USA Today gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "Home has the usual hellish ritual. They come, they eat, they argue, they leave. It's the stuffing in-between that makes it special."[15] However, in her review for The Washington Post, Rita Kempley criticized some of the performances: "Downey brings a lot of energy to the role, but his antics can be both tedious and distracting. Hunter has a lovely scene with her disgruntled sister, but there's no time for that relationship to develop, what with a romantic interest yet to explore."[16] In his review for Rolling Stone magazine, Peter Travers had problems with the screenplay: "It's a shame that W.D. Richter's un-Disney-ish script often slides into shrill stereotypes and sitcom silliness."[17]


  1. ^ Credited as James Lecesne


  1. ^ a b c "Home for the Holidays (1995) – Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hunter, Stephen (November 19, 1995). "Foster Feels at Home Adding Fun, Meaning to Holidays Clan". Baltimore Sun.
  3. ^ a b c Portman, Jamie (October 31, 1995). "Home for the Holidays No Ordinary Family Film". Montreal Gazette.
  4. ^ a b Young, Paul F (November 19, 1995). "Foster Moves Home to Par". Variety.
  5. ^ Allen, Tom (December 2, 1995). "Becoming Jodie Foster". Moviemaker. Archived from the original on June 18, 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  6. ^ Bibby, Patricia (November 12, 1995). "Jodie Foster Looks Home to Heal". Associated Press.
  7. ^ Kirkland, Bruce (November 6, 1995). "Downey to Earth". Toronto Sun.
  8. ^ "Home for the Holidays". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  9. ^ "Home for the Holidays (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  10. ^ "Home for the Holidays". Metacritic. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  11. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 3, 1995). "Home for the Holidays". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 3, 1995). "When Adults Go Home To Mom at Thanksgiving". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  14. ^ Carr, Jay (November 3, 1995). "Foster Homes In, Enjoyably, On Families". Boston Globe.
  15. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (November 3, 1995). "Holidays Dishes Out Hearty Fare". USA Today.
  16. ^ Kempley, Rita (November 3, 1995). "Home for the Holidays". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  17. ^ Travers, Peter (December 18, 2000). "Home for the Holidays". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 1, 2019.

External linksEdit