Parker is Stone Walled
When I read the synopsis for "The Family Stone" I was sure I knew what I was going to get as it sounded like a story about a son taking his girlfriend home to meet the family for the first time and as such you not only get the family not liking her but the dysfunctional family causing chaos. Oh and just for good measure set it over the Christmas period so that you can sneak in some seasonal niceties. And in a way that's what I got but not in a cheap imitation sort of way because "The Family Stone" is a surprisingly enjoyable and well made movie which takes a few cliche ideas and turns them into an entertaining story which delivers both humour and drama. Its downfall, its one main cause of problems is the girlfriend because she is so annoying that your dislike of her over powers the warmth you feel towards the other characters.
With the entire Stone family assembling for Christmas at his parents, Everett (Dermot Mulroney - Must Love Dogs) thinks it's the perfect time to introduce his girlfriend, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker - Life Without Dick), to everyone and ask his mother for a promised ring so that he can propose to her. The trouble is that pretty much everyone in the Stone family dislikes Meredith as she is uptight, talkative and outspoken when it comes to certain social issues and as such she struggles with the hostile reception she gets. Desperate she moves in to the local inn and calls her sister in for support but that just adds to the mess as it causes romantic complications.
In a way "The Family Stone" is a movie of many layers which blends comedy with social commentary, family drama with emotion and it does it very well. So whilst on first look "The Family Stone" looks like a Christmas movie about a girlfriend not fitting into her boyfriend's family it ends up much more. But the storyline of Everett Stone taking Meredith home for Christmas to meet the family is the central storyline and for the most delivers what you expect. The dysfunctional but also close knit Stone family struggling to warm to her and her views on homosexuality and adoption. And of course Everett's mother Sybil dislikes her even more as she knows he is planning to pop the question. It serves up the comedy that you would expect from Meredith feeling like an outsider, making mistakes and also being picked on by Everett's siblings.
But that is very much just one level to "The Family Stone" and incorporated into this is an element of social commentary as Meredith's outspoken views end up causing major issues. It may seem very manufactured when you have a gay son in an interracial relationship who plan to adopt that you will have Meredith causing issues with her opposing views but it surprisingly works to deliver one of the movies more dramatic scenes. And that element of drama continues through out as there are issues with Sybil Stone as well as the arrival of Meredith's sister who she calls in for support only to cause more complications.
All of which is good and "The Family Stone" skips along delivering this mix of drama and humour nicely with some great set piece scenes as well as a few surreal ones. But there is one really big problem which affects it and that is the character of Meredith played by Sarah Jessica Parker. The trouble is that in The Stone family you have a diverse bunch of characters and so to make Meredith feel alienated to them all she is an extremely uptight, anally retentive character, so fake it's painful. And that sadly means that she is also annoying as hell, so annoying that it's impossible to warm to her despite being the outsider and that has the knock on effect that the warmth we should feel towards the other Stone's is weakened by are dislike of Meredith.
And it is a real shame that this one character spoils things because the rest of the characters are just great and well performed. You can't but help love Diane Keaton as Sybil who's laid back attitude and liberal values is heart warming as is Craig T. Nelson as her husband Kelly. And you can't but help smile at Rachel McAdams as the feisty Amy who almost leads the call to dislike Meredith whilst Luke Wilson is gloriously amusing as the laid back and level headed Ben. Every single one of the Stone family has some form of endearing quality and it is these characters which make "The Family Stone" so much fun even Dermot Mulroney as Everett who finds himself caught in the middle is likeable.
What this all boils down to is that "The Family Stone" is an enjoyable movie which manages to make the most of a few cliche storylines and delivers this warm, funny and emotional drama with a nice dose of the festive spirit about it. It does though suffer because one character, the central one of Meredith is such an extreme character that not only is she false but also seriously annoying, more than is needed.
Tags: Christmas Movies