Writer and director Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji on the Beach) has created a marvelously entertaining film that unfolds as four families (African American, Latino, Jewish, and Asian) on the same block in Los Angeles celebrate Thanksgiving. When a gun is fired, they all go out into the street and we realize for the first time that they do not know each other as neighbors. And yet they have much in common as they struggle with the internal and external forces challenging family solidarity.
Ronald Williams (Dennis Haysbert) is a successful African American spin-doctor for a racist governor; he has little time for Audrey (Alfre Woodard), his traditional wife, and too high expectations for his son (Eric K. George). His overbearing mother (Ann Weldon), who is visiting for the holidays, makes things as hard as possible for her daughter-in-law by criticizing everything she does.
There is a lot of tension in the air at the Avilas where Elizabeth (Mercedes Ruehl), the family matriarch, tries to compose herself when she learns that her son (Douglas Spain) has invited her philandering ex-husband (Victor Rivers) to dinner. Meanwhile, she hopes that the family will be kind to her new boyfriend (A. Martinez) when he arrives.
Herb (Maury Chaykin) and Ruth Seelig (Lainie Kazan) are very uncomfortable around their daughter Rachel's (Kyra Sedgwick) "roommate" Carla (Julianna Margulies). Other relatives in this Jewish family are even more shocked when the truth about their relationship comes out.
Trinh Nguyen (Joan Chen) is cooking two separate dinners for her large Vietnamese family, but her eldest son Jimmy (Will Yun Lee) has chosen to go elsewhere. She's upset because she has found condoms in her daughter Jenny's (Kristy Wu) jacket, and her other son Gary (Jimmy Pham) is keeping a gun under his bed for a friend. When this firearm falls into the hands of Little Joey (Brennan Louie), it is quite scary.
Chadha celebrates the cultural and racial diversity of Los Angeles much in the way Catfish in Black Bean Sauce did recently. Both films use food as a touchstone for the diversity that is at the heart of the American experience. Don't miss this wonderful film!