The Family Stone

B
The Family Stone
Rated PG-13; Directed by Thomas Bezucha; Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson, Claire Danes, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney

Family gatherings at Christmas offer a wonderful scenario for a screenwriter. You can have family secrets, family idiosyncrasies, family tensions, and, well, anything to do with family. What helps show a family in its full functionality – or better yet, its full dysfunctionality, is to throw an outsider into the mix. It’s a tried and true genre.

In “The Family Stone” we get a family with a secret, some idiosyncrasies, and the only tension that seems to happen with this family is when the outsider shows up for Christmas. Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) is the outsider. Visiting her boyfriend’s family for the holidays, Meredith is a nervous wreck. She knows how much this means to boyfriend, Everett (Dermot Mulroney), and is determined to make a good impression. Unfortunately, Meredith is incapable of fitting in with Everett’s family. She has the uncanny ability to open her mouth and offend someone. It’s a testament to the screenplay and to Sarah Jessica Parker that she remains a sympathetic character. The only member of the Stone family who has no problem with Meredith is laid-back Ben, played by the charming Luke Wilson. As things go bad to worse, Meredith invites her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to join the group. Let’s just say that from there on, new and old romances bloom, and some come to terms with their fears.

With an excellent cast that does a great job with the characters, the movie offers plenty of laughs, plus some wonderfully emotional moments. Everyone does such a good job. Diane Keaton is in fine form as the mother who isn’t ready to accept Meredith into the family.

Writer and director Thomas Bezucha (“Big Eden”) gives the characters plenty to do. Too bad he couldn’t make some of the plot developments believable – enjoyable, yes; believable, no. The directing is doesn’t interfere with the story, though there is a feeling that some scenes didn’t make it into the movie. One of the romances seems very unlikely and only a few soulful glances and one conversation is supposed to make us believe these two people are perfect for each other.

“The Family Stone” is certainly not perfect, though how many family gatherings are perfect? With all its imperfections the movie still provides some good family cheer, along with romance, love, anguish, and tenderness. “The Family Stone” is a funny, moving, and nice addition to the genre of family gathering movies.

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