The Family Stone (PG-13)
Starring: Dermot Mulroney
“Diamonds Are Forever…Dysfunctional Dramedies Aren’t”
If Meet the Parents was recast and rewritten as a drama, the result would be The Family Stone, director Thomas Bezucha’s bittersweet Yuletide portrait of the pun intended Stone family. Though the gags here aren’t nearly as plentiful or outlandish as those seen in Meet the Parents, there are some humorous lines and situations sprinkled in among the hard-hitting, issue-driven narrative.
The entire plot hinges on the relationship between Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney). Meredith is on the stiff and stuffy side, whereas Everett and his entire family, consisting of dad, Kelly (Craig T. Nelson), mom, Sybil (Diane Keaton), sister, Amy (Rachel McAdams) and brother, Ben (Luke Wilson) are on the spontaneous, accepting and fun-loving side of the spectrum. So when the Stone’s find it difficult to accept Meredith, there’s big trouble for Meredith and Everett’s relationship, a problem that continues to intensify with each additional faux pa (like when Meredith shows her true, perfectionist colors during a game of charades), misunderstanding or ideological difference.
The crux of the movie, as one would gather from the title, is the Stone family wedding ring which has been passed down as an heirloom for generations. Cybil is reticent to hand over the ring because she isn’t convinced that Meredith is “the one” for her son. Everett comes to the same conclusion when Meredith insists on sleeping in a separate room from him and when he later develops feelings for Meredith’s sister, Julie (Claire Danes). Cupid throws another relational curveball when Ben gets Meredith drunk at a bar and the couple is discovered in bed together the next morning.
Further spiking the eggnog is an incendiary subplot involving the Stone’s adopted son, Thad (Tyrone Giordano), who, in addition to being deaf, is also gay. At the dinner table, Meredith recklessly walks into a lion’s den when she asks Cybil if she ever wished her son wasn’t gay…to spare him any psychological discomfort or social stigma. Meredith, oblivious to the growing hostility around her, persists in pushing her values on the Stones until red-faced Kelly explodes in anger and storms away from the table. The scene seems utterly unnecessary and is too politically-charged for i7ts own good; but I suppose the writers felt it necessary to add this incident to the ever-growing list of grievances the Stone’s hold against Meredith.
Therein lies the movie’s greatest miscalculation; as a main character, the audience is inclined to like Meredith, but the script requires her to be at constant odds with the Stones. Since the film has no antagonist (its most glaring deficiency) Meredith, with her air of superiority and annoying throat-clearing tick, is made villain by default.
I have no qualms with the acting, directing or other production values in the movie, but the story’s pacing is nearly catatonic at times, even when compared to other dramedies of this kind. To its detriment, The Family Stone focuses too much of its attention on issues and not nearly enough of its time on the peripheral characters. Whether The Family Stone becomes the next Christmas classic remains to be seen, but its status as a run-of-the-mill drama is secure.
Rating: 2 1/2