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‘Cold Turkey’: No peace at home for the holidays

Poppy (Peter Bogdanovich) gets an earful from his adult kids including long-estranged Nin“Cold Turkey.” | SUBMITTED PHOTO

Poppy (Peter Bogdanovich) gets an earful from his adult kids, including long-estranged Nina, in “Cold Turkey.” | SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Poppy Peter Bogdanovich

Deborah Cheryl Hines

Nina Alicia Witt

Lindsay Sonya Walger

Filmbuff presents a film written and directed by Will Slocombe. Running time: 84 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center and available on video on demand.

Updated: January 28, 2014 6:10AM

The holidays are made for films about family — and a great time to bring up money and infidelity.

Slating his “Cold Turkey” as a “black comedy,” writer-director Will Slocombe is more affectionate than acerbic about the characters he assembles in Pasadena for Thanksgiving. A wordless coda on Christmas morning works as an understated denouement.

Slocombe, who drew on the structure of his own family, blogged just before Thanksgiving about the “uncomfortable truth” that making this film “was pretty weird for me.”

“I didn’t write the movie as therapy,” he adds. Thankfully, his plot does not fix everyone’s defect.

Peter Bogdanovich plays Poppy, an international studies prof at Stanford University who once consulted on disbanding the Iraqi army. His three adult children bring home their own problems. Long-estranged Nina (Alicia Witt, who sings “You Can Go Home” in the end credits) will out her bed-wetter stepbrother and stab her stepmother with a fork.

Slocombe invents splendid details. Poppy is reading “Volume VIII” of a naval history with “1943-1944” as its absurdly narrow focus. His son fears leg-breaking loan sharks after a bad investment in Nicaragua vacation property. The daughter with red-streaked hair just got fired from her job of running a kiln on an Arizona commune.

Others are personal. Slocombe’s father was indeed a senior advisor for Defense and Security Sector Affairs for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. The filmmaker blogged: “I actually do have a yoga-teaching sister. I actually do have a sister who hadn’t been home in a while.”

When an English major at the University of Chicago, Slocombe directed a script by a comp lit grad student. In “Crime Fiction,” a true-crime writer working at the university press scores fame after killing another writer. Slocombe may not carve up his kin for “Cold Turkey,” but he serves a wry repast.

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