THE FAMILY STONE
***1/2 (out of 5)
December 16, 2005
Claire Danes as JULIE MORTON
Diane Keaton as SYBIL STONE
Rachel McAdams as AMY STONE
Dermot Mulroney as EVERETT STONE
Craig T. Nelson as KELLY STONE
Sarah Jessica Parker as MEREDITH MORTON
Luke Wilson as BEN STONE
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Thomas Bezucha
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I love the Christmas season. I love getting together with family during the holidays and enjoying everything they have to offer. But I’m also a realist. I know that sometimes families can be a real pain in the keister.
“The Family Stone” is one of those holiday movies that both celebrates the family and shows what a mess it can be at the same time. And anyone who has tried to become part of a close-knit family group should appreciate the film.
In this movie, Sarah Jessica Parker plays Meredith, the uptight girlfriend of Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney). Everett is bringing Meredith home for the holidays for the first time, and she’s a bit intimidated – and with good reason. The Stones is a close-knit family group that doesn’t easily welcome outsiders.
From the moment she arrives, Meredith is under the gun from the family. Everett’s mother (Diane Keaton) is leery of giving her blessing. His sister Amy (Rachel McAdams) is the only one who had met Meredith and is all too eager to show how much she dislikes her. And to make things worse, Everett’s brother Ben (Luke Wilson) has taken a shine to Meredith.
In many ways, “The Family Stone” can be uncomfortable to watch because it does cut a little close to the bone. Families in general are bizarre creatures. Most people have a love-hate relationship with their own. On one hand, they have their traditions and soulful get-togethers. But on the other hands, they are often at each others’ throats act completely insane.
Of course, when you grow up with your own family’s insanity, it just seems normal. The truth of that insanity is only revealed when someone outside of the family tries to nudge their way inside. Think about it: There’s a reason why everyone’s parents are annoying but lovable and their in-laws are nuts.
The film opens with a lot less humor than I was expecting. The funnier moments in the beginning are usually soaked in brine and are especially uncomfortable if you’ve ever gone through a worrisome experience of meeting your significant other’s family. However, as things move forward in the film, the characters come to their own and the uncomfortable set-up eventually springs a hilarious trap.
By the end of the film, I found myself laughing quite a bit and enjoying myself. At the very least, it’s good to know that while my own family is nuts, they’re not that nuts.
The cast is superb and very well rounded, if not large. Stand-out performances come from Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams, who manages quite well as the frumpy and bitter younger sister. It’s nice to see her in a role different from the pretty girl we’re used to in films like “Red Eye” and “Wedding Crashers.”
After a bit of a rocky start, “The Family Stone” blossoms into a beautifully crafted morass of dysfunctionality. But it also has a lot of heart without being too cheesy. (Sure, it does get a little cheesy near the end, but what holiday film doesn’t?)