Family Stone poster

The Family Stone

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Why it’s worth your time:

It’s a film about the messiness of holidays, family and the combo, and it knows exactly how to take flawed characters and push them just to the edge of what an audience can handle.

The eldest of five, Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) brings home his potential fiancé, a New York banker named Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) who makes granite look malleable. Tightly clutched to her power suit, she enters a cozy house of unfiltered familial love with notes of codependency — and a very liberal interpretation of boundaries.

Typically in bring-home-to-parents plots, we see the underachieving burnout entering a den of great expectations. But the reverse situation is portrayed in The Family Stone. It’s refreshing to see at the core a more inclusive group, topped by a mom (Diane Keaton) who rejects any commentary reeking of sexual repression.  There’s also an emotionally evolved dad (Craig T. Nelson) who serenely drops truth bombs like “our Everett may not know himself at all.”  All the family members sign in ASL throughout the movie to include their hearing-impaired family member, Thad, played by deaf actor Ty Giordano.

But despite their sense of community, no one is exempt from shortcomings, because even the “cool” family has their share.

What to expect:

At the beginning, it’s like watching an uneven tennis match between Meredith and each of her potential in-laws. Every introduction, with clashing ideologies on each side, leaves Meredith with a bagel on the scoreboard. But just as you start to feel sorry for her, you are reminded… she sucks. SJP remarkably finds a performance path (in patent heels) as an unlikeable character whose only salvation is her room to grow and self-reflect.

Right as everyone, including you the audience, settles into the ongoing awkwardness of a black sheep guest, an emotional reveal about one Stone family member slowly leaks out to everyone else. As each one finds out, you will transform from crying laughing to just crying. For a tension break, writer/director Thomas Bezucha inserts some inappropriate mashups between unlikely characters which are ridiculous, but by the time they manifest, you’ve bought in and feel like a member of this functioning dysfunctional family.

The takeaway:

Bezucha inflicts a discomfort into his audience that feels cathartic because of its familiarity. With a healthy-sized main ensemble of ten, Bezucha makes meals out of moments, compensating for his lack of emotional real estate with show-don’t-tell exchanges that will make you say, “Oh I know what that was about.”

And when he has time to take a punch, he lays one right in the gut.  When Thad and his calm-demeanored partner Patrick (Brian White) take verbal hit after hit from Meredith, who in an effort to serve her self-perceived wokeness, ends up unleashing ableist, homophobic and racist comments. The measured outrage she is met with speaks to the acceptance spiral she finds herself in.

Watch it with:

A loving pet that you can ugly cry around. Bonus if they are trained at making hot toddies.

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