Sarah Jessica Parker and Dermot Mulroney in The Family Stone.
Christmas with your own family can be difficult, stressful and at times even boring. Why then, anyone would want to spend time with a family, not their own, as awful as the Family Stone is a question the filmmakers should have asked themselves before making this movie. Almost without exception, they are unpleasant, unlikable and completely stuck in their ways and, despite their incredibly left-leaning liberal ways, unwilling to accept anyone who has an opinion that differs from their own.
Sarah Jessica Parker, in her first major endeavor since Sex and the City ended, stars as Meredith, a woman meeting her boyfriend's, Everett, family for the first time by spending Christmas with them. Meredith's personality is as tightly wound as the bun in her hair and the Stone family hates her from the beginning, with their attitude bordering on rudeness from the instant she arrives.
The Stone family is a Hollywood snapshot of what a politically correct liberal family should be. The mom (Diane Keaton) jokes about her kids taking drugs and says how she hoped her kids would be gay, which one of her sons is (and also deaf, adopting a child, and dating a black man just to make the point). When Meredith dares to ask the question, why would a parent hope for their child to be gay, she's practically driven from the dining room table as if she'd just brought up the subject of nipple piercing in a nunnery. There's no room for an opinion that's different from the group's in this house.
Meredith is only accepted by the family after she gets drunk and apparently has an affair with Everett's brother (Luke Wilson). This isn't quite the problem it might seem since by now Everett has fallen in love with Meredith's sister, Claire Danes, who has shown up for moral support. If you think I'm giving anything away, then you obviously haven't seen the previews for this movie where all of this is spelled out in ten-foot high letters.
All of this might still have made for an entertaining movie if any of the characters were remotely likable and or interesting. They are however, without a doubt, the dullest, most uninteresting bunch of people ever to be gathered together in one movie. I couldn't care less about any of them. When the terminally dull Luke Wilson is the actor with the most charisma in a movie, you know it's in trouble.
The other problem is that the story can't decide whether it is a comedy or a drama. It wants desperately to be both. All of the best jokes are shown in the previews and so lose most of their impact, while the drama will only work if you actually care about these people, which I definitely did not.
What makes spending Christmas with your family worth it is that they are your family, warts and all. No matter how stressful it becomes, you still share a bond with a group of people that leaves you feeling rewarded when it's all over. There's nothing rewarding about The Family Stone. If I were a member of this family, I'd be changing my name and moving to another state.
Rachel McAdams and Diane Keaton in The Family Stone.
Wow, did Scott and I see the same movie? Sure this is no classic but it is nowhere near as bleak as Scott makes it sound. I agree that the movie is uneven. The previews painted it more as a comedy than it actually is. What it really wants to be is a touching Holiday family movie.
Yes, the Stone family immediately dislikes Meredith. But mainly because they know Everett well enough to realize that she is not the woman for him. They eventually do accept her as younger brother Ben's girlfriend.
The script is the weakest aspect of the movie. First of all there are no good quotable lines. Secondly the dialogue is a bit too movie-of-the-week. And I agree that the deaf brother and his black boyfriend are given no personality at all. And for a movie that espouses such liberal opinions the gay couple never even gets to kiss.
But enough of the movie's flaws. The cast is absolutely first rate. Diane Keaton proves once again why she is one of the most respected actresses of her generation. Sarah Jessica Parker for her part is perfect as the uptight Meredith. Newcomer Rachel McAdams (in a far different role than she played in Mean Girls) proves to be a talent to be reckoned with. I predict big things for her.
The Family Stone does manage to entertain, but it tries way too hard at it.
Meredith meets the Stone family.
The worst writing in any movie is when one character has feelings for another character, but no reason is given for it. This happens quite often in romantic comedies. Two people meet and for no discernable reason they fall in love. Rare is the movie that actually explains why they fall for each other. In The Family Stone we have a family that instantly, and for no apparent reason, hates a guest in their own home. We have two men instantly fall in love with two girls, again for no given reason.
With no discernable motives, I cared not for anyone involved. In fact, I actively hated most of the people on screen. The mother was obnoxious and probably the worst Christmas hostess since the Mayor of Whoville. She laughs at and yells out loud at her sons girlfriend.
Not only are the politics annoying, but what about the stereotypes? The button downed business woman with her cell phone and moderate views, who only needs a good drunk to loosen up. The gay partner who likes to cook? The only thing worse would have been if he were a hair dresser. Jesus, he walks in and starts talking recipes with the mother. How come that did not offend you Patrick?
The Family Stone makes a great companion piece to Deck the Halls as two of the worst Christmas movies ever made. Parker and her husband, Mathew Broderick, should be forced to watched both of these movies every Christmas as penance for torturing paying customers.
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (2005)