Hollywood has a long standing tradition of churning out holiday films in which large, loving but dysfunctional families gather to celebrate Christmas and end up bring up old feuds, swapping girlfriends (or boyfriends) and over-cooking the turkey. So the idea for The Family Stone, a new comedy starring Diane Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker, isn’t a new one, but despite the ring of familiarity The Family Stone works as both a comedy and a poignant family drama.
The story centers around Dermot Mulroney—the oldest and favorite Stone son—who brings his uptight girlfriend, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, home for Christmas. The Stone siblings and parents take an instant dislike to her and united in the cause of tormenting her they try to drive her away. For support she brings in her beautiful younger sister, played by Claire Danes who only complicates an already strange situation.
This is normally the kind of thing that makes me run to the theatre—to see something else—but the great ensemble cast really salvages this from the treacly depths. As Meredith Sarah Jessica Parker leaves her Sex in the City character far behind daring to be unlikable and along the way proves that there is more to her than simply being Carrie Bradshaw.
We also get a welcome glimpse of Canadian actress Rachel McAdams as the nasty Stone sister Amy. This is her third good film this year after The Wedding Crashers and Red Eye, and in it she proves that she has mastered the role of the cinematic mean girl.
There are many humorous moments but the film packs an emotional punch in the scenes between the elder Stones, played by Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson. In their best moment together they tell us all we need to know about their relationship in one quiet bedroom scene and one gentle touch of a scar.