A review of ďThe Family StoneĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

 

A stunning ensemble makes beautiful music in this festive cinematic confection.

The holidays are no stranger to family dysfunction; itís as much a tradition as eggnog and mistletoe. For the New England Stone family this Christmas is one for the books as prodigal son (Dermot Mulroney as Everett) is bringing serious girlfriend Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to the lionís den for family inspection.

The Stones are a tough crew Ė a bohemian say-it-like-you-see-it group for whom polite chit-chat and social graces are anathema to honest living.Meredith is immediately on the outs for her uptight New York demeanor and controlling ways.

Thereís plenty of drama to go around, beginning with Meredithís sister Julie (Claire Danes) abruptly appearing for emergency moral support and matriarch Sybil (Diane Keaton) concealing a tragic secret.

Not to mention the fact that brother Ben (Luke Wilson) has eyes for Meredith, Everett has eyes for Julie, and little sis Amy (Rachel McAdams) can barely control her hostility at giving up her beloved attic room to the guest who refuses to sleep with her lover in his parentsí home.

Nothing Currier & Ives about this picture. Comic and dramatic elements spill over one another in a messy cornucopia of feeling but there are glittering moments both poignant and sardonic. A particularly thorny dinner conversation tackling son Thadís (Tyrone Giordano) gay lifestyle is a profound tribute to family support and an outsiderís skewed perspective.

Who doesnít enjoy wallowing in another familyís miserable holiday dynamic? The Stones manage to cover all the bases with a dash of class courtesy a candid performance by Keaton. All told that confusion, awkwardness and warmth spells easy end-of-the-year entertainment.