|The Family Stone(2005)
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Claire Danes, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson
Director: Thomas Bezucha
The holidays have begun, and what better way to celebrate than by going to see a painfully dubious Hollywood film centered on a rude family’s Christmas gathering? Centering on the Stone family, “The Family Stone,” if it succeeds in anything, may just make your family look good by comparison. That goes for you Klan members reading this as well.
The film opens up with Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) introducing his uptight fiancé- to-be Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) to his family. Everett’s sister Amy (Rachel McAdams), who has met Meredith once, and inconceivably “hates” her, quickly succeeds in poisoning almost the entire family against Meredith before she even walks in the door. Apparently in the Stone world, Meredith’s propensity to talk too much and her nervous habit of clearing her throat is more than enough reason for Everett’s family to treat her like garbage.
Judging by the house these people live in, the Stones are upper-middle class and should not be strangers to tact or etiquette. Yet in this film they absurdly write Meredith off and make her feel like an outsider. The Flintstones couldn’t be more uncouth than these jerks. Meredith herself is not perfect, and may not be right for Everett, as we find out, but her treatment in this film is implausible, especially coming from a family that has embraced an openly gay sibling, and one who is in a committed relationship with a black man.
It is this aspect of the movie that is the main reason why the film is unwatchable. The family’s rudeness, and Meredith’s reaction to it, is supposed to serve as some kind of twisted comic relief for the film’s contrived and predictable subplots dealing with various romantic relationships and a family tragedy. But the family’s antics and Meredith’s annoyingly paper-thin skin garner none of the much needed sympathy required by the end of the film.
If you do get forced into seeing this movie you can at least look forward to some interesting, if not awkward, performances from the film’s talented ensemble cast. Sarah Jessica Parker tries to inject some real humor into Meredith, and Luke Wilson’s turn as the least contemptible Stone brother is a highlight. Claire Danes also does well as Meredith’s sister Julie, but ultimately her character in the film serves no purpose other than to provide unneeded closure to one of the film’s many gratuitous love stories.
Despite these standouts, “The Family Stone” ultimately doesn’t know what it wants to be. It yanks at your heartstrings while bashing your funny bone. It’s a film that means well but in the end doesn’t really succeed in anything other than making a supposedly liberal, semi-bohemian family look like a bunch of callous, hypersensitive, and obnoxious ingrates.
Despite the unanticipated amount of negative feedback that the film received during its theatrical run (due to the fact that it was promoted as a family comedy, when it clearly wasn’t), FOX has put a lot of tender, loving care into their single-disc release of “The Family Stone.” Along with two audio commentaries, one good (with director Thomas Bezucha and crew) and the other not so great (with Sarah Jessica Parker and Dermot Mulroney), the DVD also features six deleted scenes, and a handful of other extras including a recipe for Meredith’s strata. The real gems of the disc, though, include a brief Q&A session with the cast (recorded at the SAG Theater), an eighteen-minute making-of featurette, and a rather lengthy gag reel that gives the viewer a pretty good idea of how well the cast worked together.