Barry Levinson was on a roll in the 1980s and early 1990s, with close-to-classics such as Diner, Good Morning Vietnam, Rain Man, Bugsy, and more. He’s been in a bit of a hot-and-cold slump the last 10 years or so (Sphere? Envy? Jimmy Hollywood?), but he was a master of Hollywood filmmaking in his prime. One of the releases that came during his streak, was 1990’s Avalon. While it wasn’t the box office hit he had with something like Disclosure, it was nominated for a few Oscars and had a pretty acclaimed release. And, in my opinion, it holds up and stands the test of time. Whenever Barry Levinson releases a new film, I hope for the best. I don’t hope for Rain Man (though I’m a fan), instead I long for another film like Avalon.
A semi-autobiographical look at a family of Russian immigrants making a home in Baltimore post-WWII, it’s a heartfelt but never hackneyed tapestry of domestic drama, coming-of-age, and the ties that bind. With a wonderful ensemble cast (anchored by Aidan Quinn, a very young Elijah Wood, and Armin Mueller-Stahl) and a beautiful Randy Newman score, it’s the kind of film I can just watch over and over and over again. And, this would be a weekend to do it. True to its tale of families finding a home in the “promised land,” Avalon is peppered with the Krichinsky family’s annual Thanksgiving dinners. It’s not a “Thanksgiving movie” per se, but it certainly ends up becoming one by sheer warmth. So, if you haven’t had a chance to ever see this movie, seek it out. Happy Thanksgiving.