Friday, May 19, 2006

THE FAMILY STONE

The Family Stone movieSarah Jessica Parker Directed by Thomas Bezucha
Starring Sarah Jessica Parker
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


THUMBS UP!
THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!


Whine, whine, whine! I hear nothing but whining from so many reviewers about this film that I feel like chasing after them with a big stick. “The dysfunctional family gathering stories have been overdone,” some say. “It’s trying to be a comedy, a drama, and a romance,” others complain. “Too many subplots,” others lament.

On the first complaint (“dysfunctional family films”), I’d have to agree. There are a TON of them out there (Look Who’s Coming to Dinner,
The Squid and the Whale, and In Her Shoes, just to give you a sprinkling.) But what does that have to do with the quality of THIS film? Nothing.

On the second complaint (“too many genres”), I’d have to say, “What the Hell are you talking about!” The mixing of genres has been going on since celluloid productions started. And I don’t really care if they mix genres as long as the story/script/acting is good –
The Family Stone definitely had a great story/script/acting.

And on the third and final complaint (“many subplots”), I’d have to say “So what.” Subplots are an excellent way to let the story unfold without getting heavy handed with one of the other genres (i.e., too much drama versus excessive comedy).

The story…

The Stone family is getting together for the Christmas season. Everett Stone (
Dermot Mulroney) is bringing with him his girlfriend whom he has intentions of asking to marry during the family’s gathering. Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) is this fiancé-to-be and she’s so uptight you think her head might pop off at any moment. Her type-A personality is excessive, so much so that she wears perfectly fitting gray outfits, has her hair wound-up securely on her head, and rarely laughs or smiles. Meeting up with the Stone family, she’s about to be slam-dunked into a realm she’s never before experienced. This new family has a gay, deaf son (Tyrone Giordano) whose partner is black (talk about a dynamic!), a daughter (Rachel McAdams) who’s met Meredith and damages her reputation before she ever sets foot in the Stone home, the matriarch of the house (Diane Keaton) who’s medical secret threatens to destroy this year’s festivities, the patriarch (Craig T. Nelson) who’s trying to hold the fraying ends of the family together, and finally we have Meredith’s sister (Claire Danes) who’s called in to act as a support person for Meredith but ends up getting more involved with the Stone family than she’d ever hoped.

The beginning of the film is front-loaded with plenty of laughable moments. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character (Meredith) has a nervous tic which involves clearing her throat, and this is used to great comedic advantage. The dialogue is also excellently laid out as we see Meredith say to one of the more obnoxious Stone family members, “I don’t care if you like me or not.” To which the Stone replies, “Aw … of course you do.”

As the film progresses, however, we get to see much more of the family’s problems. Mother is very ill. Everett may not be in love with Meredith. Everett’s brother has a “thing” for Meredith. And the list goes on. What makes this portion work is its realism. There are so many dynamics to this family. They don’t have just one. Ever. You get in tight with the Stone family, whether you like it or not, and this can seem very uncomfortable to some viewers, especially those who can identify with one or more of the characters.

And that’s why this movie works. All of the actors (even Craig T. Nelson) don’t force the issues. The Family Stone comes tumbling off the screen and it’s funny, sad, irritating, beautiful, angering, spiteful …it’s family. Yes, it’s been done before, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like this version. Give it try.

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