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The Family Stone (2005)

Reviewed on 2006 August 29

If my family was like this, I’d spend the holidays home alone, watching other movies than this and snarfing White Castles. And I don’t even eat beef.

Sara Jessica Parker plays Meredith Morton, the Wikipedia entry for “type A personality”. (She’s not that kind of “A” though, more just A for “awfully nervous”.) She’s about to meet her almost-fiance’s huge clan for a long holiday weekend, a time of year when most people have frayed nerves and act like they’re stressed out to begin with, and Meredith is understandably tense as a wombat on crank. Dermot Mulroney plays her boyfriend Everett Stone. Everett is a bastion of uselessness. He does nothing to allay Meredith’s fears, at times cheerfully pointing out they’re all watching her from the window of their huge house. They’re clad in varying degrees of casual clothes … I think one of them was even wearing pajama bottoms … and the sight of Meredith coming from the car in her heels and skirt is enough to induce an estrogen-based mushroom cloud among the women.

This is important because they’re supposed to be a very liberal family and should be above judging people based on superficial things like appearance, but they did. I think it also shows Everett dropping the ball. Most women will ask about what to pack for a weekend with prospective in-laws, and it might have helped Meredith if the big lug had warned her to ditch the heels and pack some Levi’s, but he didn’t. (Men, trust me on this. I don’t get it, you can wear whatever you like to my house, but some women freak right out over this stuff. There. I said it.) He’s more terse than she is and while we never saw them packing I can picture him just grunting and pointing at the stuff she packed, saying it was “fine.” This may not have done any damage control anyway. Amy Stone, Everett’s snotty sister (well acted by Rachel McAdams), decided she doesn’t like Meredith from a previous meeting, and does her best to make sure nobody else does either. Meredith doesn’t help herself and doesn’t exude much warmth, but I wonder how much good it would have done at this point. They almost all dislike her, especially Amy and the matriarch Sybil (Diane Keaton). Sybil has her own huge problems and takes them out on Meredith. Wanting one friendly person to talk to, Meredith calls her sister Julie to come out and be a buffer. The sister (Claire Danes) shows up and the family adores her from the outset with the same mystifying passion with which they dislike Meredith. Everett seems especially taken with her and at this point I’d have dumped the breakfast casserole I was creating for the family over his head and left but…first, there’s a painful dinner they have to sit through.

And then the silly resolution. I never give anything away in my reviews and I’m not going to start here. Do they accept her? How? If so, what warms them up? It’s extremely unbelievable. Of course, the unbelievable thing is this: why are they so set against her in the first place? One brother, Ben, knows from the beginning that Meredith isn’t a bad sort, just tense and trying too hard. And he’s stoned! If he can see this through his pot-cloud why can’t the others?

It was a well-acted movie by everybody, and that’s kind of the problem here: with the exception of Luke Wilson’s charming portrayal of Ben Stone, they were all convincingly unpleasant. Much talk was made of the dinner table scene, but I think the most frustrating scene was when Everett was with his deaf, gay (if you make it to the dinner scene it’s a plot point) brother Thad (Tyrone Giordano) buying an engagement ring for Meredith. Thad grabs his arm and and signs to him to not do it. When Everett presses him for a reason, Thad just sadly shakes his head. I wanted to smack Thad myself. You have a reason for hating the person I love, even after only knowing them a few hours? I’ll listen. No reason, just don’t like them? Then shut up and help me pick out a ring.

I give The Family Stone a morsel, just to get the taste out of my mouth.



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