Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cinematic Advent Calendar - Day 7

The Ref (1994) - Dir. Ted Demme

Originally released in March of 1994, The Ref (1994) missed the chance to be a holiday hit by about three months. When it was released later that year on VHS, the film began building a cult following, just in time for the holidays. Unlike many other Christmas films, The Ref doesn't rely on the holiday for entertainment support. Christmas acts only as a back drop for the story, occasionally allowing for conflict to enter when necessary. The fact that it is set during Christmas does enhance the overall resolution, but in no way infringes on the story, or characters' dispositions. While most Christmas movies focus on the bond of a family unit, The Ref was one of the first to embrace dysfunctionality and couple it with holiday anxiety. Denis Leary takes a page out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), playing Gus, a cat burglar, who winds up kidnapping a married couple (Kevin Spacey & Judy Davis) on the fringe of divorce. As the evening progresses, more and more members of their family show up, revealing more and more of their problems. The night transforms into one giant group therapy session that leads to a greater understanding each other and their relationships. A milder, less raunchy, yet equally aggressive prelude to Bad Santa (2003), The Ref presents a very practical view of an overlooked holiday demographic. 

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