Family Stone

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Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney
Director: Thomas G Bezucha

You’ve seen it before: son brings his girl home for Christmas. She is greeted with a reception as icy as the wintry weather, which you would expect, but who is herself even icier than the family, which you would not. ‘They hate me!’ she wails. Yes honey, they do. It’s hard not to!

The Stone relatives are bohemian, relaxed, and as worn in as their spacious house. The opposite is true of the eldest son’s love interest: Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a seemingly cold, rigidly composed city career woman whose attitude clashes with the laidback Stone philosophy. She sticks out like a sore thumb, which (for our benefit) makes her prime time prey for dislike and ridicule amongst the otherwise homely bunch.

Comedy and drama mix as family secrets unravel, emotions fly haywire, and poor Meredith earns our escalating pity every time she’s unfortunate enough to open her mouth. (Perhaps ‘Morton’ sans the ‘t’ would have been a more appropriate surname for her). Anyway, talk about family spirit! This is no way for things to gel, especially during the festive season…

THE FAMILY STONE is an endearing drama; interspersed with great comedy (which you’ll appreciate irrespective of whether you’ve experienced similar family hassles) and some superb acting (look out especially for Diane Keaton as the mother hen, Sybil).

The movie’s downfall is that it precipitates with predictability. Maybe it doesn’t ‘precipitate’ as much as it ‘showers’. If the inevitable drizzled in dribs and drabs and we, once in a while, could forecast what was going to happen, then that would be alright. But when we have the whole story wrapped up before any of the characters get a chance to realise what their next move is, well that’s like watching a re-run of a not particularly outstanding show.

It sometimes feels as though a few story chunks have been unintentionally lifted from previous movies, and this definitely adds to the tedium. This film could have ventured much deeper had it not hammered on every conceivable formula known to mankind. Although it must be said that some parts are genuinely touching, others belong to the sentimentally bound sobbing territory that soaps are made of.

So there are lousy bits and wonderful bits, with plenty of love, hate, drama and inconsistent absurdity. You will care about a select few characters the way you do about your own relations, while the rest will be excluded from any sentiments. A little unbalanced but what can you do?

At the end of the day this is the kind of yearly Christmas fare that might calm your nerves – if it doesn’t wear them out! Good luck.

3 out of 6 stars