Christmas Movies: The Family Stone (2005)

4/5* | Shiv’s Show | Siobhan Divers

Dir: Thomas Bezucha
104 mins
Starring: Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Tyrone Giordono, Elizabeth Reaser

Okay can I start by saying that this film has genuinely shocked me.

The Family Stone has D R A M A.
To be honest, I was only watching it because Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Keaton were in the description and I was fully expecting it to be ‘another Christmas-y romcom’ and what this film delivers is so much more than that.
At points I’ll admit it was slightly boring (it’s slow to start) but there were other points where it was extremely tense; I also cried and laughed at various points throughout the 104 minute duration – there are some great lines, humour and heart-warming scenes.
Suprisingly, The Family Stone has it all.
Taking place over the festive period (of course), the film opens with Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) taking his girlfriend Meridith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet his family and spend Christmas with them. It’s quite evident early on that the family don’t approve of her, treating her from the get-go as an outsider and not ‘one of them’.
In the Stone home over Christmas is Everett’s parents Sybil (Diane Keaton) and Kelly (Craig T. Nelson), his brothers Ben (Luke Wilson) and Thad (Tyrone Giordono) and his sisters Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser) and Amy (Rachel McAdams) as well as Susannah’s young daughter and Thad’s partner Patrick.
Following the initial hostile reception, Meredith calls her sister Julie (Claire Danes) for some moral support over Christmas and this is when the real story starts.
There’s no Sex in the City in The Family Stone – Sarah Jessica Parker’s character is uptight and straitlaced and she even asks to sleep in a separate room from Everett to ensure she makes the right impression on the family.
Rachel McAdams also plays her role well – she’s the Mean Girl of the family and the first to make a judgement of Meredith – she takes an instant dislike to her after meeting Everett and Meridith for dinner on one occasion prior.
Diane Keaton’s character is equally memorable and a crucial part of the storyline – arguably it is one of her best roles and the same can be said for Rachel McAdams.
There’s multiple couples and complex characters with incredible character development – it’s not hard to see what could go wrong over the holiday period once the film really starts however it is by no means predictable.
At one point characters even take part in a Bridget Jones Diary style fight scene – giving severe flashbacks to that fight between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.
Something else to note is that Thad Stone is deaf so a large part of the script is signed by characters  as well as spoken – it’s not often that deaf people or otherwise handicapped characters are represented on screen.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is that there is no clear lead character – in the beginning, the film appears to centre around Sarah Jessica Parker however the focus moves to Diane Keaton then Clare Danes and then Rachel McAdams – an impressive feat to accomplish as every character has their own back story and development.
A well-written script with a well-chosen cast, The Family Stone is one you shouldn’t prejudge!

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