Written and Directed by Nicol Paone.
Starring Malin Åkerman, Kat Dennings, Jack Donnelly, Jane Seymour, Aisha Tyler, Deon Cole, Ryan Hansen, Chelsea Peretti, Christine Taylor, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Rhea Butcher, Fortune Feimster, Andrew Santino, Carla Jimenez, Brianna Baker, Scout Durwood, Mike Rose, and Dana DeLorenzo.
Molly and Abbey, along with their crew of close friends and acquaintances, host a dysfunctional, comical and chaotic Thanksgiving dinner.
Malin Akerman says it best during the ending credits blooper reel: what the fuck kind of movie is this? At surface value, it’s clearly about Thanksgiving and, more specifically Friendsgiving, the rising trend of ditching all of the racist relatives that can’t help bringing up stupid alt-right talking points (or I guess a way to get away from all of the dirty liberals if that’s the way you want to look at it) to celebrate with likeminded important people that aren’t going to break one’s sanity. There is also a unique and someone original comedy to be made with that concept, but by centering the story on a fictional Hollywood star with plenty of wealthy show business pals and her childhood best friend, much of what there is to relate to goes out the window. It’s a riff on Thanksgiving about unlikable and irresponsible rich people that are somehow still annoying even when the characters are finally acknowledging that they are pretty immature.
Molly (Malin Akerman) is introduced in dominatrix gear degrading her new philanthropist sex buddy Jeff (Jack Donnelly, who plays about the closest thing to a caring and reasonable human being here) with the joke being a crying baby heard on the monitor. At least Friendsgiving is forward and direct that the humor is going to be lazy throughout (the baby is nothing more than a prop to somewhat cause the characters at the party to grow, culminating in a third act that drives home how much you hate these people instead of empathizing with them). This cuts between best friend Abbey (Kat Dennings doing nothing more and nothing less than her regular sitcom routine) shopping for food and other party necessities before getting kicked out of the grocery store for public intoxication at the hands of alcohol she brought with her.
What was intended to be a day for the two besties to spend alone comforting each other over their recent breakups (Molly is going through a divorce whereas Abbie was dumped by her girlfriend nearly a year ago) starts off with Jeff staying for dinner (he seems to genuinely care about Molly and the baby despite having his own shortcomings as a potential future stable partner), which snowballs into unexpected arrivals from Molly’s neglectful and horny mother Helen (Jane Seymour), an ex-boyfriend, a friendly couple with their own children (Aisha Tyler and Deon Cole), and plenty of other background characters that either exist to tell wacky Thanksgiving stories or lesbians that Abbey might take a liking to (each of which is introduced with a cringe fourth-wall-breaking summary of themselves resembling a dating profile).
The issue is not so much the raunchy sexual humor and drug use itself at nearly every turn of Friendsgiving, but how willing and comfortable these people are at throwing caution to the wind to party hard while taking turns poorly looking after the baby in the household. Granted, it’s for a point considering writer/director Nicol Paone (the actress is making her directorial debut here) acknowledges these people still have a lot of growing up to do. All of it could be done with a funnier movie and lackadaisical babysitting that doesn’t necessarily endanger the child. There’s plenty of other subplots that crop up, and whether it’s Helen hoping to hook up with Molly’s ex-boyfriend or Abbey making out with a married woman, none of it really goes anywhere worthwhile. Much like an actual Thanksgiving, none of these people really want to be around each other, which seems at odds with the purpose of the movie.
Again, it’s also unlikely that viewers will connect to a Friendsgiving movie that is speaking to rich people more than anyone else. It’s a mind-boggling creative decision that Friendsgiving is not about everyday people struggling to find a way to celebrate the holidays. Even its attempts at resonating with lesbians will fall on deaf ears considering sketches here involve dream sequences about Fairy Gaymothers (not even Wanda Sykes can save the segment, and when she’s not funny something has really gone wrong). I’m just glad some of these characters eventually realize they need to change, but the journey there is just as infuriating as being around a racist uncle.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com