Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lazy Movie Weekend: Extortion, Larceny, and Women on Fire - A True Family Christmas

Happy Holidays! I hope that everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving holidays and the marathon of food and guilt that I'm sure ran rampant across the world. Hopefully you also spent some quality time with loved ones (I certainly did) and learned the true meaning of the holiday. Or something. I realized that I'm super awkward at holding babies. I'm not sure how marketable that skill is but it's mine and I like to focus on those things in which I excel.

I thought we'd return to Lazy Movie Weekend with an often overlooked holiday film that should really be part of your regular rotation. Throw it in somewhere between Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch. Or maybe hold off until the kids are in bed; there's a lot of adult language in this one. This movie has everything a holiday movie should have: larceny, extortion, Christine Baranski, sarcasm, and women on fire.

Slice up the orange marzipan cake with creme de menthe and lime zest and let's settle in for The Ref.
  • What is it about odd movies from the mid-1990s that make me feel comforted and like life makes sense? Is it the pleated pants and shapeless dresses? Maybe it's the fact that so many very good actors were in these little gems so it's like hanging out with old friends before they become incredibly famous. 
  • The town of Old Baybrook looks like Christmas threw up on it. This is probably why I avoid small towns and Connecticut during the holidays.
  • The entire opening sequence is meant to introduce us to characters and plot points that will become important later - the chief of police, two bumbling police officers, George, the town Santa who will be responsible for the ending of the movie (in a way), and the missing Baby Jesus. I never realized this until this viewing. 
  • Does B.D. Wong ever play anything but a doctor or psychologist? He's Dr. Wong (so creative) in this movie, a marriage counselor that our protagonists, Caroline (Judy David) and Lloyd (Kevin Spacey) visit at the beginning of the film. He will also be important later.
  • I love the quick pace of the dialogue and the movement between Caroline and Lloyd and Gus (Denis Leary), our thief. The pace of the movie is great.
  • Confession: I have had a huge crush on Kevin Spacey since around 1994. I love him. But I don't watch House of Cards since I don't have Netflix. I prefer to watch this movie, The Usual Suspects, and every other movie he's in instead. Except for Horrible Bosses - nothing good can come out of either of those movies. He's perfect and amazing and awesome.
  • I love movies that came out before cell phones were part of our daily lives. We also get to see some cool 1994 computer technology that Gus uses to break into the Willard mansion. So advanced. So amazing.
  • Let's talk about Murray, my third favorite secondary character in the movie (we'll talk about numbers one and two shortly). Murray is like that drunk relative in so many other holiday movies; he provides an odd amount of comic relief mixed in with a little sadness. He's Gus's partner in crime (in a literal sense) and probably should not be responsible for things like driving the getaway car and stealing a boat. But he is since Gus gets stuck in the fifth ring of hell otherwise known as the Chasseur home on Christmas Eve. Murray is the best and I sort of wish we knew what happened to him after this movie. I want to believe that he ended up in a nice comfy home after this and is able to watch Happy Days reruns forever.
  • Who waits until Christmas Eve to buy eggnog when they know they have 25 people coming over? Who does that and then gets into an argument with the cashier at the tiny grocery store about there only being one carton? Don't people in small towns (in movies) know how to plan ahead? This bothers me more than it should I'm sure.
  • Let's talk Denis Leary for a moment: does anyone else want to be around him all the time just because there's the hope that he'll just go off on one of his wild, stand up rants? This movie is basically a vehicle for him to do just that. He's just so good in this movie that you want him to win no matter what. He's not a bad guy, just not a great citizen. 
  • "Don't annoy me. It's Christmas." Connie (Christine Baranski) has so many excellent one liners in this movie, I lost count and couldn't write them all down. Her amount of awesome lines rivals the number of times Gus says the f-word. Connie is my second favorite side character - she is the stereotypical annoying relative in a holiday movie. It's a long tradition and she plays her part beautifully.
  • Did anyone else not know what a mudroom was until they say this movie? 
  • "So that means you, too, are a liar. Capital "L", small "i", small "a", small "r", period." I used this line of Gus's for years. It still creeps into my head along with, "What are we? Girlfriends here?"
  • Jesse and Lt. Siskel - we finally get to meet Lloyd and Caroline's delinquent son, Jesse at military school where he happens to blackmailing Lt. Siskel over some naughty photos. You know, like all 15 year olds do.
  • Connie: Who would catch a criminal and then let him go free? Mary: Republicans?
  • "You know what this family needs? A mute." Gus is the best.
  • Does every town in Connecticut have an eccentric millionaire? I'm just curious. 
  • I also realized on this re-watching that Gus is Jesse's criminal Yoda. Let that sink in for a bit as you watch.
  • "Why do you get strange at family gatherings? Finally, Lloyd's Satan mom arrives in the form of Rose played by Glynis Johns. Rose is my favorite side character in this movie. Keep in mind that Glynis Johns is Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins. Mrs. Banks! Seriously, how great is that? And she's Mary Katherine Gallagher's grandma in the movie Superstar. Just bask in the awesomeness that is Rose for the entire rest of this movie.
  • I believe that we all need to invest in some Lucia wreaths and bring the story of St. Lucia into all of our homes this holiday season.
  • Caroline at dinner is the absolute greatest. I realized that I am Mary in my family - just listening to the adults gossip and talk about life. Watching Mary and John through the rest of the movie is so much fun. You also have to appreciate that they jump in and help save Gus too.
  • The best line in the entire movie from Lloyd: "You know what I'm going to get you next Christmas, Mom? A big wooden cross, so every time you feel unappreciated for all your sacrifices, you can climb on up and nail yourself to it." 
  • Remember George, the town Santa? Throughout the movie we're treated to scenes of George getting increasingly intoxicated as he visits homes for Christmas. He arrives back at the Chasseur house just in time for everything to go to hell as the army arrives (Lt. Siskel to talk about the blackmail), the state police begin house to house searches looking for Gus, and Mary and John help tie up the rest of the family. Ultimately, George saves the day even if he's passed out when it happens.
  • Does Gus get away? I'll let you watch the movie to find our for yourself. I can tell you that both endings exist. 
Really The Ref is the ideal holiday film: we learn lessons about family and the true meaning of forgiveness. It takes an outsider (a thief in this case) to teach the Chasseurs that what they have is really great if only they'd stand up for themselves and occasionally beat the crap out of the Christmas tree with a fire poker. The Ref belongs on everyone's holiday movie list. 

Dinner picture
The trio

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