Friday, January 06, 2006

the family stone

excepting the last extraneous 8 minutes or so, there is something genuinely moving and meritorious about this little bit of xmas fodder.

it's always a pity when a decent film can't sustain what it's attempting to do through a full 100 minutes or so. 'the family stone' falls slightly short of being a seriously good drama thanks to a few horrendously underwritten final scenes (the claire danes/mulroney 'love' scene in particular), as well as a tacked-on, semi-explanatory epilogue. sure, tight-knit comedy/dramas like this seem to demand some kind of pleasurable explanation - if the characters are at all memorable we want to know what became of them beyond the sunset future. the writing & the acting & the development of the characters up to a kind of blissful but ambiguous & still fallible xmas-night ending was just right - to go & spoil the lot by repeating what we already knew seemed both insulting & saddening. i mean you can literally see the spot where they should've called a final cut - luke wilson & sarah jessica-parker, lying together in the first grips of a weird love; wilson grinning, repeating to himself & pondering that ridiculous but oddly relevant line from 'joy to the world': "repeat the sounding joy". gorgeous scene.

back to what i think this film was 'attempting to do', then. the story gets its template from the countless 'boyfriend/girlfriend meets family for the first time' films that've emerged in the last 20 years; 'father of the bride', 'meet the parents' etc. the only ones i can remember are outright comedies. 'the family stone' puts some mild emphasis on the gags, but i'm pretty sure i heard more sobbing than laughing in the cinema i was in. which is just the thing - the meaningful reinforcement of some dramatic moral is usually just tacked-on in films like this. in 'the family stone' it's the comedy that's tacked on, if not seamlessly integrated into scenes of (honestly) tear-jerking drama. diane keaton (via 'father of the bride') has a history in films like this; she knows how to hold the whole together, allowing the supporting actors/actresses do their bit. & they're ALL good. claire danes is radiant; rachel mcadams is almost as good as she was in 'mean girls' (see it if you haven't); dermot mulroney, in one scene in particular, does some great crying.

not bad.

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