25 Days of Christmas - The Naughty List: The Ref
Christmas is such a wonderful time for celebrating with friends and family. Or it's a perfect time for all those horrible skeletons to come out of the closet, with the latter being the case for the unhappily married Chasseurs (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis). On their way home from marital counseling on Christmas Eve, the two are taken hostage by cat burglar Gus (Dennis Leary), who needs a place to hide out till the heat lets up so he can escape town. Christmas is apparently a great time to rob rich people too. But as the night wears on, the couple's arguing begins to drive Gus batty, and you start to feel sorry for the criminal.
As an adult, holidays can be tough. Kids have so little responsibility during Christmas that their biggest challenge is appearing gracious when fashion-ignorant Great-Aunt Edna gives them another hideous cat sweater for the third year in a row. But as a grown-up you have to do all the planning and organizing of these events to accept family into your home, which can be tough when you despise your family. I don't speak from experience because a.) I have yet to host a holiday meal and b.) I have yet to despise my family, but I can see where under certain strains these things happen. And a hostage situation would be one of them.
I found The Ref much more entertaining seeing it as an adult than I did as a kid. I can't pretend I know what the Chasseurs are going through, but I can visualize it better, outside of the hostage situation that is. It brings out some great real life issues with some true holiday farce in the background. My favorite moment is undoubtedly Kevin Spacey's Lloyd beating the family's beautifully decorated Christmas tree with a fire poker until his bickering relatives shut up and listen to what he has to say.
The film has some pretty spot-on 90's comedy and gags, that hold up thanks to the comedic timing of a super foul-mouthed Leary. And it's a great practice run for Spacey's eventual Oscar-winning performance as half of an unhappy couple in American Beauty a few years later, so much so that I kept remembering a short-haired Annette Bening in the place of Judy Davis as Caroline Chasseur. Not a typical merry sing-a-along, The Ref is good fun therapy for any stressed adult feeling the holiday blues, because it shows things could always be worse.