With our first, and hopefully last, Quarantine Thanksgiving fast approaching, “Friendsgiving” might be just the socially distanced movie to watch online with family, as long as they don’t mind a bit of “crude sexual content” with their turkey and gravy. The opening scene is probably the worst offender in that respect, with some unexpected bedroom roleplay, but the entire movie is peppered with juicy scenes that may not be suitable for all family members.
Molly and Abby (Malin Akerman from “Billions” and “The Heartbreak Kid” and Kat Dennings of “2 Broke Girls” and “Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist”) are best friends coming off a bad year of breakups, so while planning on a quiet Thanksgiving together, new boyfriends and old friends get in the way. Add Jane Seymour, a la “Wedding Crashers," as Akerman’s party-crashing Swedish mother and you’ve got a party. Maybe drinking while shopping for Thanksgiving yams was the wrong move.
The entire film takes place on Thanksgiving Day and may be too claustrophobic/agoraphobic for the COVID era, but I couldn’t help enjoying the ride as it spiraled out of control. Molly misguidedly invites a lesbian “Bachelorette” bevy of the wrong women to help Abby get over her ex and Jane Seymour invites Molly’s ex-boyfriend to compete for her heart with her hot young rebound - loser(?) gets Jane. From the raunchy party photo booth montage to ending the night in the ER, this film is about what you’d expect from a party film, in a predictable but oddly comforting way.
The true strength of “Friendsgiving” comes from its large ensemble cast, with laugh out loud improv style performances from famous as well as not-so-famous faces.
Ackerman and Dennings are relatable messes with comedic chemistry. Aisha Tyler (“Criminal Minds," “The Santa Clause 2 & 3”) is hilarious as a mom gone wild. Christine Taylor’s (“Arrested Development," “Zoolander”) comedic talent, however, is largely wasted on a single gag involving her character having too much Botox to be able to speak, which is too one-note to be interesting unfortunately.
Newer faces Chelsea Peretti (“Brookly Nine-Nine”), Ryan Hansen (“Veronica Mars”) and Jack Donelly (“Atlantis”) as Molly’s boytoy all make good foils for the night’s spoils. Wanda Sykes and Margaret Cho even make magical appearances in a ‘shroom-inspired fantasy sequence. Yes, there’s also a lot of drugs and alcohol.
Ben Stiller is listed as a producer on “Friendsgiving”, so comparisons with his comedies are certainly there, but in first time feature director Nicol Paone’s hands, the feeling of this film is notably kinder than his usual repertoire.
The improvisational acting, colorful language and “you choose your own family” theme all bleed into a don’t-leave-early-or-you’ll-miss-out blooper reel over the credits. Paone may be the director/writer on “Friendsgiving," but she’s also still a working actress, even appearing in “Girl Fight” next month alongside Ackerman, but after this successful outing, I’m betting she will be able to stop supplementing her income on screen soon.