Alfredo De Villa’s “Nothing Like The Holidays” is no exception to the standard American cinema template of an acceptable holiday film. But “Holidays” does offer a fresh and culturally astute depiction to the Latino strife on holiday fun that involves a big, colorful family reunion, a potent love triangle, a big family secret and a relative returning from military service.
Respected actor Alfred Molina (“Magnolia,” “Boogie Nights”) steps into a lead role in “Holidays” but he is fortunate enough to headline such a colorful—if at times unbelievable—cast. There’s not much story in De Villa’s film and hardly a plot development which one can’t call or figure out in the first 40 minutes but if anything, “Holidays,” like this year’s “The Dark Knight” and “The Promotion,” makes the bold statement to Hollywood that Chicago is rapidly becoming the next solidified movie back lot for the new millennium. Plus, the city just looks great on the 35mm canvas.
Residents of the Logan Square, Wicker Park and Humboldt Park will watch the film with an unapologetic glee as they will surely spot and point out various city neighborhood landmarks, which the film is very kin toward.
Freddy Rodriguez (who also executive produced the film) provides one of the film’s most compelling characters. As “Jesse”, Rodriguez lends the film both a poignant layer of vulnerability in character (not caricature—which is the title much of the cast falls under) and a vital reminder of the times; “Jesse” has finished a three-year tour in Iraq and blames himself for a fellow soldier’s death. Molina is the other gem. As the family patriarch “Edy”, Molina does a nice job of tight roping the big lovable father figure with giving him an aura of mystery, which plays nicely once plot developments of infidelity arise later in the film.
The rest of the cast hangs around, has a pretty good time with each other and for the most part, so do we. Many of the film’s subplots fall flat, like the celebrity future of an aspiring daughter or the revenge murder of a thug for a slain relative, but the film is jubilant enough in its tone to try and paint a light view on all of this that you walk away forgiving the film for such missteps. The newly founded Overture Films produced the film, and after a debut year of such awful productions—from “Mad Money” to “Righteous Kill”—“Nothing Like The Holidays” closes the year on a cheerful note.