The Family Stone

Movies about dysfunctional family reunions are designed to comfort stressed-out siblings/spouses/grown children with the thought that their get-togethers could be worse. And Christmas, when the pressure to be of relaxed good cheer and generous spirit collides with work-related and personal demands, is the worst of them. Discomfort reigns in director Thomas...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Movies about dysfunctional family reunions are designed to comfort stressed-out siblings/spouses/grown children with the thought that their get-togethers could be worse. And Christmas, when the pressure to be of relaxed good cheer and generous spirit collides with work-related and personal demands, is the worst of them. Discomfort reigns in director Thomas Bezucha's (BIG EDEN) predictable slice of eccentric-family fruitcake, which manages to be more endearing than it has any right to be. The Stones are stereotypical artsy, left-leaning, shabby-chic faux-bos — slightly smug, self-styled bohemians rattling around in a gorgeous book-, art- and antique-filled house. Matriarch Sybil (Diane Keaton), whose homebody fluttering conceals an iron will, runs the roost with laid-back college professor Kelly (Craig T. Nelson). Eldest son Everett (Dermot Mulroney), the family sell-out, is a New York-based suit; pot-smoking hound-dog Ben (Luke Wilson) edits indie movies in California; big sister Susan (Elizabeth Reaser) is married, raising a precocious daughter and pregnant; prickly little sister Amy (Rachel McAdams) teaches; and who knows what youngest son Thad (Tyrone Giordano) does — maybe he's too busy being gay, deaf and trying to adopt a baby with his African-American boyfriend, Patrick (Brian White), to have a job. Everett brings his fiancee, Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker), a chic Manhattan careerist even more tightly wound that her eye-slanting bun, into this nest of loosey-goosey freethinking quirkiness, with predictably bad results. How uptight is Meredith? So uptight that she won't sleep in the same room as her finacee, even though that's where his mother put them — she'd rather displace Amy, who already hates her. So uptight that she comes to an informal family Christmas with a suitcase full of fitted business suits and coordinated spike heels. So uptight that when Sybil hugs her, she freezes like prey in a predator's sights, and the little throat-clearing cough that indicates she's nervous becomes an ongoing family joke. Everyone hates her, which only makes her more nervous, which leads to the awful dinner during which she manages to insult deaf people, gay people, gay people's parents and adoption agencies who help gay people become parents. Worst of all, when she calls in her younger sister Julia (Claire Danes) for emotional support, everyone falls in love with her. The film is pure formula, from the cutesy double-meaning title — an heirloom diamond ring figures prominently in the Stones' squabbling — to the diversity pageant around the table, but indie director Bezucha has held on to just enough individuality to breathe a little life into the cliches.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Movies about dysfunctional family reunions are designed to comfort stressed-out siblings/spouses/grown children with the thought that their get-togethers could be worse. And Christmas, when the pressure to be of relaxed good cheer and generous spirit colli… (more)

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