The Family Stone

Starring Dian Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker and Dermot Mulroney. Directed by Thomas Bezucha.
Running Time: 103 mins.
Rated: Rated M.
What is it about American families? Are they different from families in other cultures? In so many films, we see family reunions at Thanksgiving or Christmas. After the greetings come the recriminations and everyone seems to fall out with everyone else. If we are lucky (and if they are lucky and good-willed), we might see some reconciliation.

And so it is with the family Stone. It's Christmas and the oldest 'perfect' son (Dermot Mulroney) is bringing his fiancee to meet them all. Only his younger sister (Rachel McAdams) has met her, but they all already loathe her, mock her and are determined to prevent the engagement. And, when she does arrive, they behave abominably towards her - and this includes retired professor father (Craig T.Nelson) and freethinking mother (Diane Keaton). The trouble is that the fiancee (Sarah Jessica Parker) is rather hard to like and take. She is ultra-buttoned up, a controller, with a nervous cough and a propensity to talk incessantly. The family, of course, realises that they are justified in disliking her and mocking her.

One of the sons is less starchy than the rest (Luke Wilson). Of course, he now lives in Los Angeles and is a documentary editor, so what would you expect? He actually befriends the put-upon woman and is kind to her. In the meantime, she has asked her sister (Claire Danes) to come to her aid. The sister is so nice and the family like her so much, the fiancee seems even worse. It all comes to a head when there is a discussion at the table about gay stances. The other son in the family, deaf, is living in a gay partnership. Explosions.

You have a hunch that all will end happily (more or less), so it is a matter of watching the developments to see how this could possibly happen. Performances are quite strong. In fact, Sarah Jessica Parker received a Golden Globe nomination which one would be inclined to give her for having put up with so much from the family.

These are the woes of a reasonably affluent and comfortable family, so it is a little hard to be compassionate. But, perhaps there are some people in our families who are a bit like the Stones.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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