The Family Stone Thomas Bezucha

The Family Stone Thomas Bezucha
Nestled within a holiday season full of huge studio productions and Oscar baiting indies, The Family Stone offers a small and generally pleasant mainstream option. Directed by Thomas Bezucha (Big Eden) and featuring an all-star cast (including Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Sarah Jessica Parker and Luke Wilson), the film presents an adult family comedy with enough heart and witty dialogue to overshadow its tired themes.

Sarah Jessica Parker plays Meredith Morton, an uptight city girl whose boyfriend, Everett (Dermot Mulroney, playing the same character he's played in countless romantic comedies), takes her to his family's suburban home for the holidays. The set-up is very Meet The Parents, with Everett's family predictably unusual and ready to pounce on Meredith's every move. The comparisons stop there, as the film matures into a subtle and heart-felt dramedy.

Bezucha (who also wrote the screenplay) creates a wonderfully accessible clan in the Stones. There are five siblings in all, including quick-witted slut Amy (Rachel McAdams) and Thad (Tyrone Giordano), who is gay, deaf and has an African-American lover. The Stones' love for one another is realistically portrayed and often touching, and Meredith's character — the outsider — is set against type as an extremely unlikable tight-ass, allowing the audience to root for the Stones, and making the comedy arising from her unfortunate situation all the more effective.

But Bezucha certainly hasn't perfected his craft. The conclusion is weak and overly sentimental, and while enjoyable, the characters and plot are far from original (Jodie Foster's 1995 film Home For The Holidays is essentially the same film — it even co-stars Claire Danes).

But Bezucha's heart is evident and the actors are wonderfully cast and difficult to reject. Parker jumps at the opportunity to play as far away from Carrie Bradshaw as possible, while McAdams steals nearly every scene she's in. Keaton is her usual best as Stone Mother Cybil, and shows her younger co-stars just how it's done. And while The Family Stone might not have you leaving the theatre with much to work with, it's highly unlikely you'll regret having been there in the first place, and its even more unlikely you'll wish you'd seen Cheaper By The Dozen 2 instead. (Fox)