Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jodie Foster's gay Thanksgiving

While you're home for the holidays this weekend, you might consider celebrating all that is dysfunctional about your family by watching Jodie Foster's second directorial effort, the hilarious Home for the Holidays. This film should be considered a classic holiday comedy alongside A Christmas Story. But we should also recognize its gay theme, which, in 1995, was far from common. Mind you, this was two years before Ellen came out and ten years before Brokeback Mountain. For all the impatience we have with Jodie for refusing to publicly acknowledge that she is a lesbian, we should at least appreciate the importance of Jodie Foster making a film in 1995 which addressed homophobia within the family dynamic and which featured a positive—if not triumphant—gay character. Robert Downey Jr. plays the gay brother who arrives for Thanksgiving unexpectedly in his muscle car and simultaneously connects and disrupts the household. Holly Hunter plays the weary protagonist who, while wearing a hideous borrowed pink winter coat, is trying to get through the weekend without falling to pieces. In a particularly funny scene, we get to see her in the shower: "I swear to God, Tommy, I am naked in here and I am too old..." I get the feeling that Home for the Holidays is Jodie's examination of what is likely a fascinating subject for her: Normal family life in America. Jodie has said many times in interviews that her experience as a child prodigy left her with the sense that she grew up as a freak (a theme examined in her directorial debut, Little Man Tate). And many of us queers can very much relate to the film's exploration of feeling like an outsider in our families of origin. Holly's character asks, "When you go home do you look around and wonder, 'Who are these people? Where do I even come from?'"

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