The Family Stone (2005)

Family-Stone

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Another dysfunctional family.

Oh boy, do I love a good dysfunctional family story. Okay, that might be stretching it a bit. They’re okay now and then, but so overdone it’s ridiculous. The only thing that can save them is a good script and decent acting, which for something done all the time…it can be difficult. The Family Stone is a film I’ve heard of before but never seen, and now that I have, I’m….generally happy I did end up seeing it. It’s an ensemble comedy, which is always a bit iffy for me, but I think by the end they did their job.

The film follows Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) for the most part, a successful business woman, but socially awkward around families, or anyone else that’s not rigid like herself. One fateful year, her boyfriend Everett took her to his families for Christmas in hopes of asking her to marry him with his grandmother’s marriage ring (the ‘family stone’). One slight issue – everyone apparently hates her, mostly because she is socially awkward and never can say what she really means. The more she opens her mouth, the more his family despises her. When she calls her sister to come over and give her emotional support, that’s when things get really confusing. Meanwhile, Everett’s mother has some troubling news that’s sure to put a damper on the holidays.

First of all, can anyone say “predictable”? Normally I let predictability slide in the case of holiday films. That’s what they are, predictable, but there was something about this film that felt overly foreseeable. By around 35 minutes, you could probably conclusively make a completely accurate description of the rest of the movie. I’m not sure if they were really trying to keep anything a secret or not, but if they were, they failed pretty miserable. The great thing is that after the film is probably half finished, you beautifully stop caring about predictability and start caring about the characters.

Yes, there is way too many people here. All of these great actors coming together is nice and all, but because they are all so famous, the writers have an obligation to focus equally on each one, making the audience lose track on who exactly the main character is. That unfortunately happens here. Also, no one on earth is going to believe that anyone in this so-called family is related, even though they are supposed to be. Here’s the thing…in real life, blood doesn’t define family – family defines family. People who care about each other – that’s family no matter what. That’s when you realize that the characters aren’t the family here, the actors are.

These guys all perform so well together, you really believe they do care about each other and love each other, and an important message in the film is how seriously messed up a family can get, and how many times really harsh things can be said, and how unlimited a family can be in their level of forgiveness. Overall, that message is loud and clear here. There are a few really powerful scenes in the movie that really spice the film up, including a discussion on gays, and how offensive it is for people who don’t even know what they are saying, for people who mean well. Meaning well isn’t the same thing as being fine. Just saying.

All in all, by the end of the film, yes it’s really predictable, there is too many people, and you can tell they aren’t related, but it is heartwarming, and you care about the characters regardless. Pretty decent, honestly.

The Good:
The characters make this film enjoyable. It’s almost impossible to explain the importance of how they present families and support. The added unpredictable nature of love is admirable too, albeit a bit cliché and overdone.

The Bad:
There’s no real way to tell who the main character is when all of these a-class actors take over. The writers have an obligation to give every actor equal focus…which makes sense, because they deserve exposure, but that lessens the quality of the film. Also, the movie is really, really predictable, I mean really, really predictable.

Memorable Quote:
Ben Stone:
[to Meredith] You have a freak flag. You just don’t fly it.

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