Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


"Great. I just beat up Santa Claus."

By this time of year, I'm sure there's a lot of you who are ready to strangle someone with those sleigh bells. So, why don't you take a night off from holiday preparations, settle down with a big doctored glass of eggnog, and watch The Ref?

Starring Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey (back when he could be funny and dark and twisted) and Judy Davis, The Ref is about a very special Christmas for the Chasseur family. ("Chas-seur! It's 18th century French Hugenot!") Lloyd and Caroline are very unhappily married; therapy doesn't seem to be working, and they can't connect, even to decide on how to raise their teenage son, Jesse. On Christmas Eve, they're carjacked by a cat burgler named Gus, fleeing from the police after a robbery gone bad. Gus makes Lloyd and Caroline take him back to their house, where he ties them up and intends to lay low until he can leave town. But there's a few complications, like Jesse coming home from military school, the family coming over for Christmas dinner, a police chief who's struggling to find Gus, the inept deputies who are making the police chief's job all the harder, and a drunk Santa Claus.

The Ref is a great movie for those of us who like our Christmas movies realistic, not syrupy sweet. The family interactions in this movie are some of the most spot-on I've ever seen. ("You know what this family needs? A mute.") Of particular note is the work of Glynis Johns, who plays Lloyd's mother. She's played lots of nice mothers and grandmother characters, such as in While You Were Sleeping and Mary Poppins. But in The Ref, she creates a portrait of acid-tongued, shrewish motherhood that you're not likely to see in any movie, much less a 'Christmas movie'. ("What is the matter with you? I thought mothers were sweet and nice a-a-and patient. Your husband ain't dead, lady. He's hiding.")

The Ref is a funny, profane, eye-opening look at family during the holiday season. I highly recommend it, and I hope you'll check it out. Because how can you not love a movie that has a line like this in it: "You know what I'm going to get you next Christmas, Mom? A big wooden cross, so that every time you feel unappreciated for your sacrifices, you can climb on up and nail yourself to it."

You can purchase The Ref on DVD, if your library doesn't have it available.


  • At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You imply that you don't think Spacey could play 'funny and dark and twisted' anymore. When, exactly, did he try and fail at that--where was the breaking point, after which he was no longer able to play 'funny and dark and twisted' anymore? Do tell. I mean, it's not just a case of him simply choosing different kinds of roles because of ye olde "been there, done that", is it?


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