Eleanor Parker, Sally Field, and Jill Haworth star in HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey for ABC.

Home for the Holidays (1972, John Llewellyn Moxey)

Director Moxey has–there’s no better word for it–a compulsion for zooming. He absolutely loves it. I imagine it saved the time and money needed for additional set-ups–and I think short zooms from character to character were a 1970s TV movie standard–but it looks just terrible. It kills some of the scenes in Home for the Holidays; otherwise perfectly fine, sometimes eerie scenes, ruined by Moxey and his zooming camera. After the first twenty or thirty minutes, it almost gets funny, how bad a technique he’s employing. When he turns in one particularly taut sequence–Sally Field being chased through the forest by the murderer–it’s a surprise he can do such good work. It’s a great chase scene, full of suspense… with only the commercial break to eventually impair it.

Moxey does have considerable talent, however. He frames shots rather well–when he’s not zooming–and the way he moves actors around in a static shot is fantastic. His close-ups aren’t particularly special, but the medium shots where he can fit four actors into the frame are good. Home for the Holidays, though written, produced and directed by men, is a woman’s picture. The five principals are women, with Walter Brennan in a glorified cameo as father to Field, Jill Haworth, Jessica Walter and Eleanor Parker–Julie Harris plays his new wife, who the women’s mother killed herself over. Brennan’s got little to do in a poorly written role–the Brennan voice doesn’t work with the character. The only other male actor is John Fink, as Field’s erstwhile romantic interest (and, for one possible moment–and for more interestingly–Parker’s). Fink turns in a standard TV movie performance, which doesn’t cut it in the company of the female actors.

The weakest performance is Haworth. She has one okay scene and a lot of bad ones. Joseph Stefano’s script moves quickly, especially when establishing the characters, and he rushes a tad much with Haworth’s character development. But it isn’t really Stefano’s fault–just like Moxey–he’s not really responsible for most of the film’s success. Walter doesn’t have much more character, but she’s excellent–even when she’s delivering this strange Shakespearian monologue. Parker’s solid, with a lot more to do at the beginning than the end, when Home for the Holiday‘s becomes a Sally Field vehicle. It’s hard to imagine what Field’s getting her master’s degree in, but that disbelief aside, she actually does pretty well considering she’s not really a match for Parker, Walters or Julie Harris. Harris has the toughest performance–she’s got to be the hated step-mother, the suspect; Harris manages beautifully, creating a character who the viewer hopes isn’t guilty, even though all evidence points to it.

The end, the unveiling, falls apart. It’s paced well, though, with the revelation coming before the climax, allowing for some more solid acting and decent scenes. Moxey ends it on one of his zooms, but it’s got the music from George Aliceson Tipton going–and the music is excellent–so it gets a pass.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey; written by Joseph Stefano; director of photography, Leonard J. South; edited by Allan Jacobs; music by George Aliceson Tipton; produced by Paul Junger Witt; released by the American Broadcasting Company.

Starring Jessica Walter (Frederica Morgan), Sally Field (Christine Morgan), Jill Haworth (Joanna Morgan), Julie Harris (Elizabeth Hall Morgan), Eleanor Parker (Alex Morgan), Walter Brennan (Benjamin Morgan), John Fink (Doctor Ted Lindsay) and Med Flory (Sheriff Nolan).


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