The Family Stone

The Family Stone

2005, PG-13, 102 min. Directed by Thomas Bezucha. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, Tyrone Giordano, Brian J. White, Elizabeth Reaser, Paul Schneider, Savannah Stehlin.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Dec. 16, 2005

In plotting her next career move, it makes sense that Sarah Jessica Parker, late of Sex and the City, would want to avoid typecasting and steer clear of any flirty, free-spirit types like Carrie Bradshaw, whom she so winningly portrayed for six seasons. But methinks Parker may have tipped too far in the other direction: No one’s going to confuse this latest role – as Meredith, a woman meeting her boyfriend’s family for the first time – with the impish Carrie. One is meant to feel sympathy for Meredith as she is thrown to the den of lions (the title’s Stone family), but sympathy, let alone tolerance, is hard to muster when the character is such a tightwad and insufferable bore for easily the film’s first 40 minutes. (As if you didn’t know there’s a midmovie transformation coming.) But before Meredith can shake loose her pretty bun and, as one character urges her, "let her freak flag fly," first she must meet the family. Kelly (Nelson) and Sybil (Keaton) are pater- and mater-familias, welcoming home for Christmas their many children – deaf son Ben (Giordano), with his universally adored boyfriend in tow; pregnant Susannah (Reaser); the sweetly dopey, pot-smoking Ben (Wilson); and the baby of the family, Amy (McAdams), who gets the best entrance, shlepping out of her Volvo station wagon and swearing to herself as she wrangles an NPR tote and a big basket of laundry (in fact, those few details provide perhaps the strongest character sketch in this overpacked ensemble). And finally, the family’s golden child, Everett (Mulroney), who arrives with smart-suited, strait-laced Meredith on his arm and the intention of securing his grandmother’s wedding ring from Sybil so that he can then secure Meredith as his bride. But the Stones are a fiercely protective, clique-ish clan and none-too-impressed with Meredith, so the subtle sabotage begins, with snarky Amy leading the attack. There is some romantic intrigue, as well: The lingering question of "Do they or don’t they belong together?" is complicated by Ben’s long looks at Meredith and the arrival of Meredith’s little sis (an uncharacteristically blah Danes), casting doe eyes at Everett. But I’m disheartened to report that there’s not a lick of chemistry among the four, no matter how you pair them. The real love affair here is among the Stone family, a sharp and sparky bunch quick to call bullshit on one another, even quicker to smother it with a hug. There’s a lot to like here, including the nonissue of Ben’s deafness (characters often sign as they speak) and the consistent pleasure of the family dynamic. Writer/director Thomas Bezucha (Big Eden)’s likable film runs the gamut of emotions – hitting tenderness, rage, remorse, and everything in between – but it’s something of a speed trial: There are just too many damn characters, with the best ones taking a backseat to the dullish love quadrangle.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Thomas Bezucha Films
Let Him Go
Superman's parents get caught up in a Western noir

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 6, 2020

More by Kimberley Jones
Nine Days
Winston Duke sits in judgment on the worth of life in this metaphysical drama

Aug. 6, 2021

We Have an Issue: Do Your Part. Get Vaccinated. Do It Now.
We Have an Issue: Do Your Part. Get Vaccinated. Do It Now.
Where to find the COVID vaccine in Austin

Aug. 6, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Family Stone, Thomas Bezucha, Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, Tyrone Giordano, Brian J. White, Elizabeth Reaser, Paul Schneider, Savannah Stehlin

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle