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The Family Stone

By Wendy Ward | Posted 12/14/2005

We don’t belong to a large New England family that gathers together in a charming old Victorian house during the holidays, but we do enjoy that particular Christmas miracle illustrated by at least one movie per December. The Family Stone does the fantasy one better by being the dark comedy that going home for the holidays really is. Hating Her was the working title until some genius figured out, accurate as it is, that kind of harsh is a hard sell.

Uptight Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) is often uncomfortable with people on a personal level, so meeting boyfriend Everett Stone’s (boring Dermot Mulroney) large, close-knit, NPR-listening family just about kills her. It doesn’t help that the Stones look at this high-strung Manhattan businesswoman like she’s a flipping freak of nature. The Stones are sheltered, you know? A gang mentality exists within the family fort’s walls, and they justifiably roll their collective eyes during Meredith’s five-hour-long “how they met” story—and unjustly when Meredith knows nothing of the house rules.

Leading the Hate Meredith trail is matriarch Sybil (Diane Keaton), who wears the pants (as she always does). Papa Kelly (Craig T. Nelson) is surprisingly unsympathetic for being a softie, and the siblings Stone are ruder than our parents ever let us be. Youngest Amy (Rachel McAdams) is a flat-out cunt, while pregnant Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser) and Thad (Tyrone Giordano) just let the animosity flow. Only stoner brother Ben (Luke Wilson, who looks like the munchies have caught up with him) sees, albeit lustfully, why Everett wants to marry her.

Meredith falls apart under the pressure of being the unliked outsider, fleeing to the local inn. Her sister Julie (Claire Danes) arrives to add numbers to the losing side but offers no support or loyalty—and sort of charms the Stones even further away from Meredith.

And when Meredith places her high-heeled foot into her mouth during Christmas dinner—she tactlessly discusses gay deaf Stone brother Thad, his African-American husband, and their plans to adopt—the Stones practically stone her, with Everett and Julie handing them the rocks. Luckily, Ben steals Meredith away for a night, gets her drunk, and helps her free her freak flag for some flying.

Cheers to SJP for playing a less-than flattering role and Keaton for having normal teeth. The best scenes involve these two women playing pretty fucked-up characters who don’t like each other. Not saying the movie itself is all that believable, but the funky characters and the shit they do are.

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