Monday, December 19, 2005

THE FAMILY STONE - great cast, shame about the script

THE FAMILY STONE is a film that is less than the sum of its parts. Despite having a great cast and moments of compelling drama and kooky comedy, it never manages to combine these elements into a coherent and involving whole. The movie is an out-and-out sentimental Christmas family movie, that has ambitions beyond its stature. But first, let's start with the comedy set-up. Dermot Mulroney plays a stand-up guy who comes from the most politically correct family on the face of the planet. Mama Stone, played by the luminous Diane Keaton, has a whole bunch of kids, including a deaf gay son who is dating a coloured guy; a stoner son who edits documentary film (Luke Wilson); the aforementioned stand-up guy; a pregnant "rock of the family" daughter; and another kooky irritable daughter played by Rachel McAdams. On the Christmas in question Dermot Mulroney brings home his uptight Wall Street girlfriend played by Sarah Jessica Parker. The family - who pride themselves on being non-judgmental, liberal, anything-goes people - immediately turn on her. They are judgmental and mean, forcing her to flee to the local motel and call her sister as back up. The kid sister, played by Claire Danes, fits in fine, of course, creating even more tension. The film plays out from here in a fairly predictable manner. Opposites attract, pot saves the day, and by the end of the movie no real lessons have been learned. People are still as judgmental. For me, the real failing of the movie is its inability to handle the marked changes in tone of the dramatic and comedic moments. We go through scenes where the Sarah Jessica Parker character really bares her soul and her insecurities. To SJP's credit, I really felt for her. And then, a blink of an eye later, we are meant to laugh at slapstick comedy which includes, I kid you not, people slipping up on spilt pudding. Some films can get away with this change of mood and are the stronger for it. But here, it simply feels clumsy. So, all in all, a deeply disappointing movie. What a waste of a great cast!

THE FAMILY STONE went on release in the UK, US, France and Germany on the 15th December 2005. It goes on release in France on the 28th December 2005.

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