Thanksgiving is just the beginning of a long, arduous holiday season, which means another round of family meals to prepare for. You can laugh, cry, sit there in silence, try to get a word in amid raucous conversation(s) — the big family dinner is where the truth really comes out… eventually.
One benefit of being home for the holidays is having some downtime to yourself, which these days usually involves putting on a movie to avoid your Auntie Edna asking why you’re still single or your Uncle Jim’s drunken rants.
Below you’ll find six of the realest dinner table scenes immortalized on film. Not only will they distract you from your real-life dramas, but they’ll put that awkward family meal in perspective.
Director: Richard Linklater
Let’s start with the most depressing, shall we? This scene from Boyhood isn’t the easiest watch by a long shot. It depicts Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his family subjected to stepfather Bill (Marco Perella) being an abusive, alcoholic douche, who throws glasses at them while screaming about his distaste for squash. The scene is the catalyst for the family falling apart and is almost too real.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Director: Craig Gillespie
Family dinners don’t come much more awkward than the scene in Lars and the Real Girl in which Lars (Ryan Gosling) brings his blow-up girlfriend along as his date and speaks to her and the others as if she were real. Yet while it’s major cringe territory, it’s also beautiful to see how the family humors him and joins in with Lars’ fiction.
The Butler (2013)
Director: Lee Daniels
Another heavily layered mealtime scenario, this scene not only brings up power plays within a nuclear family but also hits at political and societal problems in the ’60s. Featuring a brilliant Forest Whitaker performance, the film is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, a US government waiter and butler who worked in the White House for 34 years. A stellar ensemble cast makes this movie even stronger, with Oprah Winfrey shining, in this scene in particular.
Frances Ha (2012)
Director: Noam Baumbach
When you’re a 20-something trying to find yourself in the world, living in a metropolis and trying to be someone and prove something to everyone — not even taking into account your family back home — things can get pretty confusing and bleak. Greta Gerwig’s turn as Frances, a dancer trying to make it in New York City, brings to light all of these issues and more, and proves that just because you’re with your adopted family in an adopted city, it doesn’t mean you can’t be made to feel alone, misunderstood, and crazy. Which is kind of comforting actually, in a roundabout way.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Director: Lynne Ramsay
The outlook in We Need to Talk About Kevin is never a good one, and it doesn’t pretend either. It’s more a case of “something is bad but hopefully it won’t get worse.” This dinner scene has all the elements of a disconnected family meal: parents and children who can’t communicate on the same level, aren’t particularly concerned with doing so, and talking more out of necessity than desire. What’s most concerning is the power play, in which Kevin has the upper hand while his parents, particularly his mother, are more fearful than anything else. An incredibly sobering film, but certainly worth the watch.
2 Days in New York (2012)
Director: Julie Delpy
This scene is both frustrating and hilarious because it’s perhaps a truer depiction of a family dinner than you’d initially expect. While the entire movie’s premise is carried by Marion and Mingus’ French vs. American misunderstandings, these are amplified to comedic effect when their respective families are involved. Although it’s short, this scene captures the pure absurdity of meeting someone else’s parents, especially when they’re from a different country and don’t really speak your language. In all fairness, though, sometimes even parents who do speak the same language can get it just as wrong.
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- Lead Image: Polaris Film Production & Finance