It’s that time of year again, when Western Civilization condemns anyone who tries to actively avoid spending time with relatives and simultaneously offers up all-consuming consumerism as balm for the horror of family gatherings and holiday parties.
But in all seriousness, spending time with the people from whose loins you sprung – and the rest of the motley crew with whom you share blood – isn’t all bad. There’s usually food involved, right? Plus, there’s more people to throw under the proverbial bus when you need to escape/want to change the subject when talking with elderly relatives who want to know what you’re doing with your life and when you’ll give up on that book learnin’/corporate ladder climbin’ and git yerself a man.
Ahem. In the meantime, here are a few movies that will either remind you your family could be worse, or will provide you and your family at least 90 minutes during which you won’t have to talk to each other.
Please note, these are not in any kind of order, chronologically or otherwise. Trailers may contain spoilers.
Love Actually (2003)
Like many young women my age, I love this movie. It’s not perfect, but, to filch a phrase from another romantic comedy, I like it, just as it is. And it has some lovely romances that blossom over the course of the movie. However, it’s difficult to ignore how terrible several of the families are. Natalie’s family aren’t terribly supportive; one marriage deteriorates so quickly we’re left wondering how they managed so long as they were; and let’s not forget Jamie’s brother is shtupping his girlfriend at the beginning. As a story about romantic love, this is a charming movie; but as a story about the other ties that bind, it leaves more than a little to be desired.
David Copperfield (1993)
OK, I might be dating myself here, but I remember when my mom set up the VCR for this so I could watch it later. (It was both on after my bed-time and on the same evening that my older siblings planned to stay up and watch Stephen King’s IT, and my mom didn’t want me inadvertently seeing any of that miniseries.) Of course, few storytellers do dysfunctional families quite like Charles Dickens, but of all Dickens’ stories, few are as sad (and likely to make an impression on a little kid) as this one.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
All other issues with this movie aside, both the Grinch’s and Cindy Lou Who’s families suck. They do. Watch it again and pay attention to how awful the Whos down in Whoville are to each other, especially when Cindy Lou needs the support of her family. While part of their attitude is a plot element, most of it seems like overkill.
Holiday in Handcuffs (2007)
What is it with the obsession of telling stories about women who shanghai men into being their faux boyfriend/fiancé? As much as Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez are charming, Hart’s heroine isn’t only burdened with the name ‘Gertrude,’ but she’s also been saddled with a family that spends nearly the entire movie just this side of the line between eccentric and infuriating.
Just Friends (2005)
I do love this movie, but, truthfully, both Chris’ (Ryan Reynolds) mom and brother are awful. As much as Chris is written to be a jerk for the first two acts, some of his misbehavior is understandable given the people to whom he’s related.
The Canterville Ghost (1996)
It may not take place during Christmas, but I think it’s safe to say it has a Christmas-y feel. (Or it may simply be the presence of Sir Patrick Stewart in period costume.) But when your parents blame you for the exploits of your new home’s ghostly occupant, maybe it’s time for some family counseling? Plus, how much of a jerk is your dead ancestor to keep trying to drive you out of the family estate?
The Shining (1997)
Stephen King’s story of terror in The Overlook doesn’t need much by way of introduction – and, again, it’s not exactly a Christmas story – but if you have a prolonged visit with family scheduled, this particular version may help you put your own holidays in perspective.