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Nothing Like the Holidays in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Nothing Like the Holidays

Alfred Molina • Freddy Rodriguez • John Leguizamo • Debra Messing • Jay Hernandez • Melonie Diaz • Vanessa Ferlito
DIRECTOR: Alfredo De Villa

Poster artwork THE CONCEPT:
It’s Christmas-time, and the far-flung members of the Rodriguez family are converging at their parents, Eduardo and Anna’s (Molina and Pena), home in Chicago to celebrate their youngest brother Jesse’s (Rodriguez) safe return from Iraq. But when Anna announces to her children she is leaving their father, the shock waves from this familial upheaval prompt their children, Roxana (Ferlito), Mauricio (Leguizamo) and Jesse to re-evaluate their lives.

U.S. RELEASE: December 12 2008, Nationwide
• Rated: PG-13


Alfred Molina“[Eduardo] is trying really hard to just keep his family together with two very old fashioned ideas, love and loyalty, both of which get questioned in the course of the story. There are very serious elements in it, but there’s a lot of humor as well, which is the way things are with families. In the midst of serious breakups and fallouts, whatever happens to a family, there are always moments of complete hysteria.”

Elizabeth Pena“I slapped myself every morning when I realized I was working with Alfred Molina. I mean, the whole cast was fantastic. But I have been a fan of Alfred’s since the first time I saw him, which was in Prick up Your Ears in 1987. I still can’t believe I worked with him!”

Freddy Rodriguez“The brother of the prop person was an Iraq vet. He’s actually an extra in the movie. So he was there as sort of an unofficial tech adviser. But the research I did was primarily through documentaries and material I read, primarily letters I had read that soldiers had written. I always feel like sometimes when you sit one-on-one with somebody it is more like an interview. But when you read letters they write it is more like they are baring their soul. I was more interested in going deeper than just a one-on-one. It was frightening what I found in those letters. These are kids, 19, 20 year olds, and they come back and everyone is going about their normal lives, and they’re trying to get their heads together.”

DEBRA MESSING on her role of Sarah, Mauricio’s high-powered executive wife:
Debra Messing“One of the things that drew me to the part was I’d never played a role like that before. I’d never served that function [of being the outsider] within a story before, and the second I got there I felt like an outsider. People were speaking Spanish, I didn’t understand them. People were telling jokes with references that went over my head, but as the time went by we all just became such close friends and I found my inner Latina.”

JAY HERNANDEZ (Ozzy) on being typecast as a Latin actor:
Jay Hernandez“That was what it was like the first five years of my career; always the same sorts of roles, same kind of characters. A lot of them were gang members. With this project I felt like it was time to go and take that route and do something a little different with it.”

“The funny thing is I’m not even Latin. I’m Italian, but if you have dark hair and features you’re considered ethnic. Good work is few and far between, so if it’s good, no matter what the nationality is I’ll do it - I’ll play Chinese if you want!”

RODRIGUEZ on the carol singing in the movie that went from house to house:
“Being a part of that is some of my first memories as a child. Let me explain how it works. It’s called Parranda and in the movie it is somewhat Americanized, but it is pretty accurate. You get a couple of families and you go to one family’s house. You play and sing outside. They invite you in and they feed you. They give you rum. And then that family has to join the group and you go to the next family’s house, and so on and so forth. By the end of the night you have 10 families together. I can remember I would be sleeping and it would be three in the morning, I would hear music outside my door and my dad would be like, ‘Get up! Get up! Get your clothes on.’ Me and my mom would be in the kitchen putting crackers together and my father would bring out the rum.”

“It was 25 below zero when we shot the Parranda scenes, and that’s not an exaggeration, and we had to be outside for 10 hours. We would huddle like little penguins to stay warm. I think it was because it was horrendously [cold] there that the community was able to show their character, because literally every single house on that block opened their doors to us. When they said, ‘Cut,’ they were like, ‘Come in and get warm.’ They made us tea and soup. It was the coldest winter in 83 years.”

“It was important for me to make a film that was an American holiday movie that happens to revolve around a Latin family. The reason why we wanted to do that was so people of all ethnicitys could watch it and relate to it. At the same time keeping a level of authenticity so it doesn’t feel manufactured or whitewashed.”

Filming in Parranda: Melonie Diaz, Freddy Rodriguez, Jay Hernandez, John Leguizamo, Vanessa Ferlito, Debra Messing, Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña and Luis Guzmán

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official Nothing Like the Holidays site
Images above © Overture Films
Feature © 2008 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #701, December 2008 cover

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