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Friendsgiving (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 9


Starring Malin Åkerman, Kat Dennings, Aisha Tyler, Chelsea Peretti, Christine Taylor, Jane Seymour, Deon Cole, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Jack Donnelly, Ryan Hansen, Jack Donnelly, Rhea Butcher, Andrew Santino, Dana DeLorenzo, Everly Sucher, Savannah Sucher, Rose Abdoo and Joe Lando.

Screenplay by Nicol Paone.

Directed by Nicol Paone.

Distributed by Saban Films. 95 minutes. Rated R.

Thanksgiving has always gotten a raw deal in the movies. Unlike the splashier, more cinematic late-year holidays Christmas and Halloween, there is nothing overtly cinematic about eating yourself into a tryptophan coma, arguing politics with family members (particularly the ones who watch FOX News), watching mediocre football games by a stack table (Detroit vs. Houston again???), grandpa with his pants open dozing on a recliner. And what’s the deal with cranberry sauce?

There is only one Thanksgiving film which has reached classic status – John Hughes’ 1987 comedy Planes Trains and Automobiles. (Which is good, but probably not as good as you remember.) Other comedy dramas about the holiday come out occasionally – Home for the Holidays, The Family Stone, The Oath, Pieces of April – but rarely do they connect with a wide audience, and usually for good reason. Woody Allen’s classic Hannah and Her Sisters does climax in a family Thanksgiving meal – but it is not about the holiday so much, that is just a framing device.

So there is a place for a new film to watch on the holiday. Too bad Friendsgiving is not that film. Or, at least, it is not that good of a film.

Of course, since the world is in a different place than it was even last Thanksgiving, it is possible to get nostalgic about those crowded eat-a-thons, where you could actually get the whole extended family together without worrying about putting grandma and Uncle Jack into the hospital. So, maybe, some people would be up for a slightly sappy sex comedy with extra stuffing.

As you can probably tell by the title, Friendsgiving is not about families, anyway. It is about a tight-knit group of friends who decide to forego family celebration and instead break bread with their extremely extended friends. Sure there is some family there – two of the characters have small children and the lead character’s mother surprises her by flying in from New Zealand with no notice – but this is mostly friends, and eventually a whole bunch of gatecrashers.

The two main characters are handling recent breakups in different ways. Malin Åkerman is Molly, a b-level actress who has an infant son and is in the midst of divorcing her husband. She is dealing with the breakup with a rebound fling with a shiny European model-type.

Her bestie is Kat Dennings as Abby, a cynical thirty something lesbian who has just coming out of the closet and is obsessing over her ex, the first woman she ever dated, and who frankly it seems treated her horribly.

Since the two are both single they decide to have a quiet holiday at Molly’s home, but that is quickly complicated by the appearance of friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends and Molly’s mother (Jane Seymour).

The inevitable idea of Jane Seymour playing a ravenous cougar may have been fresh in Wedding Crashers in 2005, but since it seems to be the only role she has played since then, it has long since become as stale as week-old corn bread. However, if you have been waiting for Seymour to reunite with her Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman co-star Joe Lando, well you can be thankful for that.

Now most holiday films try to avoid things like S&M, drug usage, lesbianism, etc., so give Friendsgiving a little credit for bravery. If only it didn’t feel like a feature-length episode of some “edgy” sitcom (we’re looking at you, Girls).

The world has changed and the nuclear families – the units of friends and lovers as well as blood – is a smart thing to explore in a film about something as traditional and family-valued as Thanksgiving. I just wish they had done a better job of it.

There are lots of things to be thankful for in this festive season. I am not sure that Friendsgiving is going to be one of them.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: October 27, 2020.

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