Thanksgiving is all about family, and often, it's all about movies. After feasting, football & shopping, going to see a movie together has become an American holiday staple. If you're looking for a film to see this Thanksgiving, here are a few I recommend--unless you want to take your kids (then see Hugo or The Muppets). Each of these films is in some way about family and is near the top of my list of the best films of 2011. If one of them is playing in your city, go see it!
The Descendants: Set in Hawaii, Alexander Payne's family dramedy is rough around the edges but has a sweet heart. It's a film about a father (George Clooney) trying to be a good parent, a loving husband and a respectable citizen. It's also a film about dysfunctional families and the passing of character down from one generation to another. With its Edenic setting and themes of fallen paradise and inherited sin, The Descendants is a deceivingly smart, spiritual film. It's also a tearjearker, so come prepared for the final 10 minutes.
The Way: Directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen, The Way is a "Wizard of Oz"-esque journey movie, set on the Camino de Santiago ("The Way of St. James") in Spain. It's an uplifting film about family, pilgrimage, and coming back to faith. If you love travel, or have ever experienced the beauty of being thrust outside of your comfort zone in a foreign place, you'll enjoy The Way. It's one of the most underrated, refreshingly sincere films of the year.
Martha Marcy May Marlene: If you're in the mood for something a little less heart-warming and a little more thrilling this Thanksgiving, try Martha Marcy May Marlene. It's a beautifully made, haunting film about a woman (Elizabeth Olson... the Olson Twins' younger sister), who is psychologically damaged after she escapes from a cult. The film alternates between her experience inside the cult and her readjustment to life outside, as her sister tries desperately to care for her in the midst of her fragile state. The filmmaking is top-notch here and director T. Sean Durkin leaves much to the viewer in terms of interpretation.
Melancholia: What better way is there to celebrate and give thanks for life than to watch a film about the destruction of all things? Seriously though, there's something undeniably transcendent to behold in Lars von Trier's Melancholia, an ostensibly nihilistic film that in spite of itself manages to grasp something beautiful and sublime about art, life, and humanity's place in the world. Don't expect pretty things and joyful reconciliations in Melancholia. In spite of its wedding motif, this is not a happy-go-lucky rom-com. It's dour and bleak... but strangely beautiful.