Meet the Family (Film Review: “The Family Stone”)

SnapShot Plot

There are some holiday-themed movies that transcend the years and the genre and – like a fine wine – just seem to get better with age. The Family Stone is one such film. No matter how many times I watch it, I find myself laughing in brand new places and choking up all over again in others. This 2005 movie still boasts one of the best ensemble casts ever, in a family comedy-drama which co-stars: Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, and Claire Danes. They’re all superb.

The Stones make up that certain kind of enviable family – you know the type – a big, rowdy gang in which a certain kind of prickly, liberal intellectualism mixes with a sarcastic jocularity and self-deprecating charm, blessed by an abundance of good looks. On this Christmas holiday, there’s an added tension in the air which is fueled by two disparate trajectories, one of expectation and the other of resignation.

The expectation is over the arrival of Everett (Mulroney) with his soon-to-be fiancee, Meredith (Parker) in tow; he’s introducing Meredith to his family for the first time, all the while planning on popping the question that very weekend. Meredith is a portrait in nerves and buttoned-down control issues. Her personality type is rife for mockery by Everett’s judgemental sister, Amy (played with a delicious viciousness by Rachel McAdams, who seems to conjure her alter ego from Mean Girls). The slacker brother, Ben (in a performance that may have come too naturally to Luke Wilson for its apparent effortlessness) may come across as a slightly black sheep, but don’t be fooled; he’ll surprise everyone. And when a desperate Meredith summons her more outgoing sister, Julie (in another translucent performance by Claire Danes) for an emotional rescue, the reaction to her sister’s arrival is anything but expected.

The resignation hovering like a black cloud over the otherwise rambunctious family reunion involves a worrisome situation that the parents, Kelly and Sybil are struggling to navigate. Their roles are beautifully handled by Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton, so convincing in their depiction of a husband and wife deeply in love with each other through thick and thin, that at times you almost feel guilty for eavesdropping on their intimate rapport.

So how will this family holiday resolve itself? And will Cupid’s arrow arc in anticipated directions or does the mischievous cherub have other things in mind?

Parting Shot

The Family Stone was written and directed by Thomas Bezucha in 2005, proving a deft narrative command and ease with actors which will hopefully be replicated in the upcoming Kevin Costner/Diane Lane movie, Let Him Go. Bezucha also wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, an NSP fave that was reviewed just recently.

For many people (guilty as charged) The Family Stone ranks among their top five favorite holiday movies. The love for this film has become legion, I’d dare to add. Yet who can definitively say what secret sauce or level of alchemy went into its magic brew? And at the end of the day, what does it matter? Perhaps it’s that elusive quality of emerging loss or the resignation to some sad truth or reality that tears at the heart while some zany predicament puts a smile on our lips. . . perhaps that’s the killer charm that makes movies such as this, utterly unforgettable.

The Family Stone is presently streaming on HBO, and also through Amazon Prime to HBO.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to partner on a fantastic site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern (presently known as Pandemic Diaries) as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

YouTube Trailer

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