The Family Stone
Half has edge.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
The first half or so of The family Stone is iconoclastic and edgy; the second is trite and sappy. But then I loved Billy Bob Thornton's Bad Santa, so you know where I'm coming from. I loved how the film attacks prejudice in the form of Sarah Jessica Parker's Meredith Morton, an uptight fianc?e of Dermot Mulroney's Everett Stone. To her, laid-back, similarly outsider brother Ben Stone (Luke Wilson) says, "You have the freak flag... you just don't fly it."
Meredith, although hailing from the decidedly not upscale Bedford, Mass., appears aloof and uptight, Puritanical and prejudiced in the company of the liberal New England family Stone, who all sign for the deaf, gay brother and his mate. One of the illogical premises is that a hunk like Everett would ever ask the mousey Meredith to marry him. That is, until we learn that mom (Diane Keaton) is dying and he would like to take a bride before mother dies. Another inconsistency is that an educated family like this could not accept the relatively benign Meredith, even before they met her and gave her a chance.
The family is like most others, however, because its sense of worth comes largely from itself as if insularity were the only antidote to a Darwinian world of materialism and self aggrandizement. When Meredith queries one of the sisters, "What's so great about you guys?" the answer is surprisingly humble and protective: "Uh, nothing . . . it's just that we're all that we've got."
The dinner scene where the family's support of their gay member clashes with Meredith's unenlightened prejudice is superb. After this, however, the film loses its edge by slipping into the warm clich?s of family unity and love so abundant in films. If they had stayed with the idea that families have undercurrents of violence and hatred restrained at holidays, then the filmmakers could have explored the myths and fallacies about ideal American life.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com