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Review: Nothing Like the Holidays: Ensemble Cast Gives Standout Performances

While the story of a family coming together for Christmas isn’t extraordinary, everyone in the cast of Nothing Like the Holidays gives memorable performances that make this film stand out above other holiday films.

One aspect of the film worth noting is that, while it’s supposed to be based on a Puerto Rican family, only three of the eight main Latin characters are actually Puerto Rican. Vanessa Ferlito, who plays daughter Roxanna, is actually of Italian-American descent, and Alfred Molina, who plays the father, Edy, is a British actor of Spanish and Italian heritage.

Despite this lack of authenticity, the actors are convincing in their performances, and in the end, the ancestry of the actors mean little if the acting isn’t believable.

The film centers around the youngest son, Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez), returning from a tour in Iraq. While his parents, Edy and Anna ( Elizabeth Peña), are busy putting a “Welcome Home Jesse!” sign above the door, Jesse’s friend Ozzy (Jay Hernandez) and cousin Johnny (Luis Guzmán) are waiting for Jesse at the airport with a sign that says “Love Machine.”

Meanwhile, Jesse’s older brother Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and his wife, Sarah (Debra Messing), arrive in town and stops by his dad’s business, Edy’s Bodega, to visit. She notices that the cashier, Tina (Claudia Michelle Wallace), is wearing the blouse that Sarah gave to Anna, and begins to dread the inevitable “When am I going to have grandkids?” questions from Anna. Sarah, a high-powered executive, is more interested in her career right now than in babies.

Last to arrive home is Jesse’s older sister Roxanna, who everyone believes is arriving by limo since she’s a Hollywood actress. Little does anyone know that Roxanna is still just a struggling actress waiting for her big break in L.A., and has a cab drop her off at the corner, lying to her family that the limo driver had another stop and had to leave right away.

Before long, the entire family is chatting and bickering over dinner, when suddenly Anna announces that she’s divorcing Edy. This announcement sends the siblings into a tailspin, with each taking either their mother or father’s side.

Freddy Rodriguez has been making a name for himself ever since his days as the beloved Rico on Six Feet Under. Nothing Like the Holidays lets him show off even more of his acting range, which he’s already been succeeding at doing with such films as Grindhouse and Harsh Times. It’s also great to see Vanessa Ferlito up front and center, instead of supporting the lead character.

Nothing Like the Holidays isn’t the best film of the season, but the actors in it are believable, and they take a mediocre film and make it something memorable.

  • Nothing Like the Holidays
  • Directed By: Alfredo De Villa
  • Written By: Rick Najera, Alison Swan
  • Starring: Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña
  • Running Time: 98 Minutes