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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: The Family Stone

Review by Jonathan Lim

Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams star

Hmmm, another 'in-law interrogating tale' and a Meet the Parents spin-off...huh? After watching the film, I was totally surprised and I thought that the Christmas feeling in the movie made it like films from the 40s like Meet Me in St. Louis and The Man Who Came To Dinner. The movie itself is like there are two genre in two different parts of it.

The film is set during Christmas in mythical Thayer, Connecticut. Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings his girlfriend Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet his family, the Stones. However, before they arrive, the Stones are already planning and placing out judgements on Meredith. We then, got to know the Stones: Amy (Rachel McAdams), the mean, grad student, the youngest in the family, spearheading the effort against Meredith, seen usually in messy, over-sized clothes; Sybil Stone (Diane Keaton), the outspoken and opened minded matriarch of the family; Ben (Luke Wilson), a laid-back, pot-smoking slacker brother (and a documentary film editor); Kelly Stone (Craig T. Nelson), a laid-back father of the family; Thaddeus "Thad" Stone (Tyrone Giordano), the deaf and gay youngest son trying to adopt a baby with his partner, Patrick Thomas (Brian J. White) and Susannah Stone (Elizabeth Reaser), the pregnant, happily married housewife and eldest daughter of the family.

Meredith, from the get go, is an uptight, Type-A, straight-laced personality that doesn't seem to fit in. Her seemingly emotionally-unavailable personality annoys other family members, especially Sybil and youngest daughter Amy. In particular Amy attacks Meredith viciously and mercilessly. These unfriendly opening salvos cause Meredith to decide to stay at an inn (under the excuse that she needs better back support while sleeping). Everett also remonstrates his family for not being civil to someone who is important to him and asks his mother for her mother's engagement ring (the family "stone") as he plans to propose to Meredith on Christmas Day but she refuses, saying that she's not the one for him.

Meredith invites her more free-spirited sister Julie (Claire Danes) to come into town for moral support. The family, thus far more openly embraces her. At dinner, she asks Thad and his African-American partner Patrick if they have a racial preference for the baby they plan to adopt. Meredith is horrified at the question, but surprised when no one takes offense to the question. She then tries to fit in by starting her own controversial conversation when Sybil says (partially in jest) that she had hoped all of her sons would turn out to be gay.

Meredith attempts to express her disbelief that this could be true as gay people face great challenges and prejudice from the world, but the statement comes out wrong (concluding with her insinuation that gay people are not "normal"). This prompts outrage from other family members, and Meredith flees the table. Middle brother Ben intercepts her and takes her to a bar, where she becomes very inebriated and expresses a freer side of her personality. She even invites an EMT, Brad (who is earlier off-handedly mentioned by Sybill as someone who has always had a soft spot for Amy), to dinner.

The second half of the film is more dramatic than funny. The second half is pretty depressing to watch at times and this was a little unexpected. The trailer portrayed the film as a comedy so there were actually a few scenes that did shock me because I was not expecting something sad. The sudden shift in tone may upset some people and the pacing is a little on the slow side. I think director Thomas Bezucha did a good job at handling the two different genres and the film worked for me. The ending is pretty touching. No words were spoken, just the whole family standing next to the tree which spoke for itself.

Luke Wilson - is the kind of the typical gentleman when playing a role in romantic films. As you can see, he was deeply admiring Meredith (Parker) the first time Everett introduced him to her. While Everett is seemingly interested in Meredith's sister, Wilson's attraction on Meredith began to grow. This was like his character in his previous films such as Alex & Emma and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. The rest of the cast didn't show much performance especially Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker and Craig T. Nelson.

The Family Stone was a mixed bag. It had great acting, laugh out loud scenes, and heart breaking moments, but in the meantime, I felt it didn't know what it wants to be, some of the characters were stereotypes we've seen a hundred times before, and I thought some of things happening were totally unbelievable. If you could compare this with Meet the Parents, I think it is more on the kind of The Royal Tenenbaums.


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