‘Krisha’ is a memorable Thanksgiving movie for nontraditional reasons
Directed and written by: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Krisha Fairchild, Trey Edward Shults
“Krisha” (2016) – A few years ago, I wanted to write a “Top 10 Thanksgiving Movies” article but never published one because – quite frankly – I could only think of two such films: “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (1987) and “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973). The former is a universally well-known comedy, but it resonates as more of a buddy picture than a Thanksgiving movie, and the latter was actually a made-for-TV special and not even a theatrical release. I would not exactly say that Hollywood does not release Thanksgiving films anymore, because they never really made them in the first place.
Consequently, I have not seen a memorable Thanksgiving movie in years until 2016’s “Krisha”. Although Thanksgiving prides itself as a communal holiday of food, football and fun, be warned that director/writer Trey Edward Shults’ picture is no laughing matter. Set in an affluent Texas subdivision full of beautiful, brick homes, Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) pulls up in her pickup truck - with her dress sticking out of the driver’s side door - to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner. Agitated and disheveled, this 60-something woman - with long gray hair and deep wrinkles etched into her face after decades of probable stress - walks up to the wrong house, steps in a puddle, repeatedly curses, and then marches to the proper abode which sits right next door.
Most of her family delivers kind pleasantries in welcoming her for the feast, and then she settles into a comfortable room upstairs. On the surface, the film effectively presents a venue and players that seem like any ordinary family. Young men arm wrestle and argue about football, while the ladies congregate in the kitchen to prepare the meal and chat about recent events. The atmosphere appears light as Krisha’s brother-in-law Doyle (Bill Wise) even jokes that his brand new grandchild could fetch one hundred thousand dollars on the black market.
With turkey dinner only a few hours away, not all is well during this supposed happy occasion, and it centers on Krisha. Shults takes specific measures to show Krisha bathe in self-depreciation and isolate from the group by starring at them from a distance and repeatedly disappearing into her bathroom to reach for her pillbox labeled “KEEP OUT” with an upside-down peace sign sticker. Krisha is a deeply troubled and tortured soul, and we see that her self-loathing does not garner much sympathy from her family members. As the movie progresses – during its 1 hour 23 minute runtime - the script reveals snippets of her historic dysfunction and hence, the reasons for her kin’s disapproval. Shults volleys between cordial, loving and playful family conversations and the negative energy that Krisha inherently creates, and the end results are remarkable.
Cinematically, this family drama gives off a sick, horror show-vibe with a brooding score that is counting down towards some unknown horrible ending, while Krisha – symbolically wearing black and then red – unwittingly disrupts happy events by actually looking for love and understanding while still deplorably tormented by a destructive past. Krisha’s specific issues are not unique, but Fairchild’s unforgettable performance and Shults’ direction offer a most distinctive and exceptional look at the emotional carnage that is tragically suffered in millions of homes. Although “Krisha” is a difficult film to process, it is a most memorable holiday movie for very nontraditional reasons. (3.5/4 stars)