Impending holidays always mean one thing - family blow outs. (At least, in my family they do). In these times, you owe it to yourself to engage in the one true treasure of the late '90s SNL-skit-to-film phenomenon, the only real cinematic classic out of all of these.
I'm talking, of course, about Stuart Saves His Family.
That's right - Stuart Smalley himself, as portrayed by Al Franken before he became the guy who lied about the lying liars and the lies they lied when they lied down. Directed by Harold Ramis (aka, the Ghostbuster who wore glasses), the movie is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, but is a comedy with heart, soul, and insight. (Of course, those of you who are in 12 Step groups like AA or Al-Anon will really enjoy the film). Unlike other SNL derived films, it's not a one-joke movie; it's a movie that could have easily failed miserably, but shoots for a knowing humor. It's the kind of movie that has a tone which straddles the line between comedy and tragedy - much like life.
(It's also a comedic counterpart to When a Man Loves A Woman, the Meg Ryan/Andy Garcia romance that shares insight into recovery issues, and is a great date movie, ironically enough)
The acting is also excellent, most notably in the supporting roles - you can easily see how Laura San Giancomo went from Sex, Lies, and Videotape to Just Shoot Me. (Her ability to play drama and comedy simultaneously is a charm). In addition, Vincent D'Onofrio (aka, the guy I want to play me in the movie of my life) excels as the pot-smoking unemployed brother who has his own moment of sanity. Shirley Knight portrays a mother who carries the weight of the family on her back, and who seems resigned to her fate.
Ironically, the movie ends at Christmas - I won't tell you how it ends, but you deserve to see this film. Like the best films, it ends honestly, and not in some overscripted climax, and that's the best compliment I can give the film.
And it's probably the only time Al Franken didn't get on my nerves.