Posted: 10/26/2009


Nothing Like the Holidays

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Nothing Like the Holidays is such a delightful movie about the Christmas gathering of a proud, hard-working, close Puerto Rican family living in Chicago. Freddy Rodriguez stars as Jesse, in the Rodriguez family, who returns home from Iran, after receiving an injury and losing a best buddy.

All isn’t well with his family, which is comprised of Alfred Molina as the father, John Leguizamo, as an older brother named Mauricio who’s married to a Jewish woman, played by Debra Messing. There is much comic relief in this movie, but there are also sad times, as it’s revealed that the mother is finally fed up with the father’s philandering ways, and she announces that she’s divorcing him.

There’s sibling rivalry as with many families; it seems Jesse, even though a war hero, is not looked upon favorably by all, especially his ex-girlfriend played by the adorable Melonie Diaz. Jesse dumped her, before he went off to war, but she’s picked up the pieces with a new beau and has even had a child. Jesse would really like to get back together with her, but he keeps a safe distance.

Leguizamo and Messing are having a hard time, as they are a power couple, who can’t seem to find the time to even discuss having a baby.

The mother, played by Elizabeth Pena, tries to uphold family traditions, even in the wake of her impending divorce from her husband of 36 years. Thankfully, the family intervenes, saying that they can’t let their parents throw away nearly four decades of togetherness.

Luis Guzman is also great in the movie, as well as the only sister in the family named Roxanna, who’s living a private life in California where she’s really struggling, as opposed to getting great movie parts. She spends the majority of the film waiting on a call from her agent. When she finally gets it, it’s good news, but she deals with her immediate feelings when she has to decide whether to accept the acting gig.

The family tries to go ahead with Christmas Eve and Christmas plans, even in the midst of all the chaos. In the end, the bond remains strong and united, with everybody helping each other through, even though there may still be unsettled business between many of them.

Nothing Like the Holidays is a great holiday film, as well as a great film overall. It’s available on DVD October 27.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.

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