Movie Review: The Family Stone

I am going on record and saying that The Family Stone had the most ill-conceived and potentially misleading marketing campaign for any movie in 2005. After seeing the trailer twice, Jennifer and I have pretty much decided that the only thing that might motivate us into seeing the film would be a pack of hungry dogs chasing us into the theatre.

Well, the hungry dogs came in the form of a torrent of good reviews and word from my in-laws that the film was almost nothing like the trailer. Typical. So we set a date and decided to see for ourselves. The results was far from terrible.

What I had assumed was going to be some kind of ensemble yuck-fest – an over-the-top comedy with some fairly A-listers with good Q scores (Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, Sarah Jessica Parker) – was actually a melange of a very black comedy, a serious family drama and a bittersweet love story. Take that, trailer editors! Good luck rolling that up into a nice 2:30 – 3:00 package! Serioulsy though, they could have tried just a tad harder. Here’s my case:

  1. People like family dramas around the holidays
  2. While it’s true that laughter is the best medicine and that humor is an important part of a healthy diet, no one can resist a sob story around Christmas. Not that The Family Stone is an all-out weep-fest or even a true tear-jerker in the condescending connotation of that word, but it is emotional. Use that.

  3. The humor has a really mean edge
  4. I love dark comedies. I consider Heathers and The War of the Roses to be classics of the genre. So mean humor, humor with a edge, comedies with a heart as black as pitch don’t bother me. What you see in that damn trailer, when taken in context, has a rough, hard edge to it that really carries some potentially unfunny (though very dramatic and tense) weight to it.

  5. The movie is a tad bipolar
  6. It wants to be a comedy because the ultimate story and message of the film are something like this: Don’t hold on too tightly to the things you love (or think you love) because, in the end, we have no control over the lives of others. Plus, every day is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.

    Thing is, the movie toys a little bit too much with the concept that it is it’s trailer. It’s not. It’s better, broader and more engaging than that tripe. They could have used the dramedy aspect of the movie to promote it, I think.

  7. No one overacts
  8. Hard to believe if you’ve seen the trailer, but the film really does justice to the internal workings of a large, grown family – warts and all. Bickering adult children who can become little kids and fall back into their old habits and cliques the minute they go home. Good stuff. They also show how families react to bad news – as individuals held together by similar threads and not just as one amorphous blob.

  9. Claire Danes is in this film
  10. She does much more than fall off a bus (trailer again) and serves as a big catalyst for the action and turning point in the film. Hard to miss on-screen, easy to miss in the trailer.

Really, doesn’t it sound like an easy film to promote and market? I’m being perhaps a touch facetious, but I honestly think that a little additional effort could have captured the absurdity of this film as a part of the larger narrative and not the only plot point.

This is far more than just another clash of cultures family film, it’s a movie about families and how they are built, nurtured, end and move on.

My two cents. Go see it.

One thought on “Movie Review: The Family Stone

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