The film stars Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Cynthia Stevenson, Claire Danes, Austin Pendleton and David Strathairn.
Claudia Larson, a single mom who has just been fired from her job as an art restorer due to budget cuts, flies from Chicago to spend Thanksgiving at the Baltimore home of her parents, Adele and Henry Larson, while her only child Kitt decides to stay home and spend the holiday with her boyfriend. As she is dropping her mother off at the airport, Kitt informs Claudia that she intends to have sex with her boyfriend for the first time while she’s gone. While on the plane, Claudia makes a phone call to Tommy, her younger brother and confidant who she believes won’t be attending the Thanksgiving dinner, telling him that she lost her job, made out with her boss, and knows that her daughter is going to sleep with her boyfriend.
When Claudia arrives at the airport, she is greeted by her parents, who drive her to their home and help her unpack. Claudia remarks that she’s thinking of looking into new careers, and her mother concludes that Claudia lost her job, which she initially denies. That night, Tommy arrives with his new friend Leo Fish, who Claudia believes to be his boyfriend. Claudia is glad to see her brother, but fears that he and Jack, his
boyfriend, broke up.
The next day, more family members arrive, including their eccentric Aunt Glady (Adele’s sister), who brings more than two hundred plants with her. While returning home after picking up groceries, Claudia runs into a girl she used to go to school with. As Claudia doesn’t want to mention her divorce, Leo poses as Claudia’s husband. The next family member to arrive is Claudia's resentful, conservative sister, Joanne Larson Wedman, accompanied by her stuffy banker brother-in-law Walter and their two spoiled children.
On Thanksgiving Day, a series of mishaps occur. Aunt Glady professes her love for Henry, and Tommy accidentally spills the turkey all over Joanne. Joanne, in turn, reveals to everyone that Tommy married his boyfriend Jack in a beach wedding several months before. Their parents are hurt that they weren’t told, and Adele retreats to a hidden room by the kitchen, where Claudia attempts to console her.
After the meal, Tommy, Leo, Walter, and the children play football while Henry washes the Wedmans’ car. When the football hits the car, however, Walter shoves Tommy onto the ground and threatens him. Henry sprays them with water, and the Wedmans jump into the car and leave, soapsuds and all.
The family returns inside, where they talk for a while. Kitt calls Claudia to say that she’s fine and she’s decided not to sleep with her boyfriend. The phone rings a second time, and Henry answers; it turns out to be Jack calling. Before handing the phone over to Tommy, Henry says that he’s happy for both of them.
Adele insists that Claudia and Leo drive Aunt Glady home, then deliver leftovers to Joanne’s family. Claudia goes down to the Wedmans’ basement, where Joanne is exercising, to talk to her. Joanne says, “If I just met you on the street...if you gave me your phone number, I’d throw it away.” Claudia responds "We don’t have to like each other, Jo. We’re family."
On the drive home, Leo tells Claudia that Tommy showed him a picture of her, and he came to Thanksgiving to meet her. The two talk for a while in the living room at her parents’ house; but Tommy, who is sleeping on the floor, wakes up and reminds Leo that they have to get an early start in the morning. Claudia retreats upstairs to her room; Leo follows her, but is unable to persuade her to let him in.
Early the next morning, Claudia wakes up and sees Tommy and Leo driving away. She goes downstairs and reminisces with her father for a while, before being taken to the airport and getting on her plane. Before the plane takes off, Leo gets in the seat next to her, and they fly back to Chicago together.
- Holly Hunter as Claudia Larson
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tommy Larson
- Anne Bancroft as Adele Larson
- Claire Danes as Kitt Larson
- Charles Durning as Henry Larson
- Dylan McDermott as Leo Fish
- Austin Pendleton as Peter Arnold
- Geraldine Chaplin as Aunt Glady
- Steve Guttenberg as Walter Wedman
- Cynthia Stevenson as Joanne Larson Wedman
- David Strathairn as Russell Terziak