Almost Christmas

 

            Ah, families.  They're wonderfully affirming, and can also be aggravating, annoying, and difficult to endure.  Because they know all your secrets, and you know all of theirs.

            The family patriarch, Walter (Danny Glover), is in mourning.  His beloved wife has died, and he misses her terribly.  But he's bravely going ahead with the traditional Christmas gathering at his house, anyway.

            The first surprise is that his wife's sister, Aunt May (Mo'Nique) shows up early.  To help cook, you know.  Except that her idea of healthy gourmet is everybody's else motivation to go order pizza.  She also talks trash almost constantly, which provides her character with lots of one-liner “zingers.”

            Two sisters (Gabrielle Union and Kimberly Elise) can't be civil to each other.  The brother-in-law (J.B. Smoove) is a self-promoting has-been with a wandering eye.  The son (Romany Malco) is running for office, and therefore self-involved and distracted, though his wife (Nicole Ari Parker) tries hard to get along.  A couple of kids add some comic relief with their emogee-texting during family shouting matches.  The boy next door (Omar Epps) obviously has a past with one of the grown sisters, and is still interested, though she pretends not to be.  The youngest son (Jessie T. Usher) is a football player with aspirations who's overcoming injury, and starting to get addicted to the pain pills.  And his childhood's buddy's local connections make it too easy to get supplied.

            Every once in a while, they all have some great moments together, like when they're dancing in the kitchen, or enjoying a family game of football (before it disintegrates into arguments) or when they're remembering their Mom with universal fondness.  But Dad just can't understand why everyone can't get along, just for five days together, and every once in a while he just retreats to his shop, or to the local homeless shelter, where he and his wife volunteered for years.  He's even considering selling the house, because everywhere he turns he bumps into memories.

            It's poignant, it's hilarious, it's uncomfortable, it's dysfunctional, it's family. 

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  How dysfunctional is your family?

2)                  Did you enjoy the family holiday gatherings?  Do you still?

3)                  What has recently changed/evolved about your family dynamics?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association