There’s a critical scene where, post-meal, Tommy and his brother-in-law get into a fight on the front lawn and Henry breaks it up by literally hosing them down. Of course, that’s not before all the neighbors pop out on their porches to see what all the fuss is about. Henry shouts, “Go back to your own goddamn holidays.”
But that’s just it. Family drama—and conflict—is common. We may have been born into the same household, but we’ve all grown up and carved our own paths that render our OG family permanently out of sync. We’ve got new families to prioritize, new sets of values, new standards (and judgments) that, for Thanksgiving only, we make the effort to harmoniously blend together for one boozy meal.
The sheer difficulty of this task is the meat of this film: The recognition that family differences can be surface level, but they can also cut so deep, they’re beyond repair. (Like when Tommy’s sister Joanne reveals her intense homophobia and ugly disapproval of Tommy’s life choice.)
Much like real life, not everything is resolvable. Still, that doesn’t break the ties that bind. As Claudia says to Joanne post-dinner, “We don’t have to like each other, Jo. We’re family.”
And that’s the reason this film is my #1: A family’s bond is perfectly imperfect. And the connectedness—the fact that we all gather around the Thanksgiving table year after year—isn’t guaranteed. But, despite the squabbles and the personality quirks and the (occasionally irreparable) commentary on each other’s lives, there’s love and gratitude for the place we all hold in each other’s lives. It may not be the same as it once was, but it’s there...and sometimes that’s enough.