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Just a reminder how I’ve single-handedly (for the seven readers for my blog) revamped the rating system: Here.

My mom used to tell me that we leave our Christmas lights up until January 6th. She also told me why we do, but I’ve forgotten that part. The important thing is, I spent so many evenings watching the new Christmas “classic”, Elf that it wasn’t until January 5th that I got around to watching The Family Stone on recommendation from a movie-expert of a friend. But, it’s alright because our Christmas lights were still up.

They sell The Family Stone as a comedy, admirably so. It was recommended to me as more of a drama, depicting the reality of a dysfunctional yet shockingly real family with surprising accuracy for a Hollywood effort. Both the marketing and the recommendation were right, to varying degrees.  And though the validity in my friend’s recommendation was redeeming, The Family Stone didn’t excel too far above a typical pop culture dramedy.

I’m always a little hesitant to press play on the movies that are jam-packed with celebrities. It makes me nervous, like it’s a ploy to cover up a loose plot structure or poor character development. Some kind of bait and switch that’s going to keep me starstruck long enough that I don’t notice the crucial details that the movie lacks. No lies, I feared just that when I sat down to watch The Family Stone. And I don’t  like Sarah Jessica Parker all that much, so with her playing a major role and me already hesitant, I was glad I had cider and popcorn in case things didn’t work out.

The strange thing about my initial feelings was that they fit pretty well with the opening of the film…in such a strange way. I didn’t like Parker’s character, Meredith, one bit but neither did one single member of her boyfriend, Everett’s family. I liked each one of the Stone’s well enough, so we all got along great. But only for a while.

The Stone’s were malicious and closed-minded and I grew tired of their jokes on visiting Meredith. I started to feel sympathy for her, even though I thought she was utterly ridiculous. It wasn’t until late in the movie that I became wise to how the movie had pulled at the strings of my heart. It was working its magic. I was feeling the characters as if they were real. I laughed at their jokes, gasped at the unbelievable, scowled at that which was too harsh. I was an unwilling lover of the genre that I hate: “dramedy”.

By way of revealing family dynamics, The Family Stone is more than the chaos that family comedies often end up portraying. The characters are individuals. The problems are  real; they step out of the box of stereotypes for a minute and try swimming in the deep end. There were a few points where I sat wide-eyed, thinking: this isn’t funny at all. And it wasn’t, it was a moment of reality. Life isn’t always something you can laugh at, even for the most casual, laid-back, close-knit family. I found the portrayal refreshing, free from the chains of Hollywood façade. 

Sure, the director takes an overwhelmingly liberal approach to casual sex, drinking, and homosexuality.  I didn’t say the movie couldn’t be beat – I just said it portrayed the family well.  The approach to sex is very “Hollywood”, but less revealing than most – at least I felt comfortable watching it.  The use of drunkenness is disappointing, it’s presented as the only way that Meredith’s uptight character can loosen up.  The implications of that are horrible, the plot direction is an “easy way out”.  But the stance on homosexuality created fantastic moments of tension in the film – one particularly notable dinner conversation where Meredith, in her poor, stuttering communication insulted nearly every member of the family as she tried to engage a difficult topic.  I actually think that Patrick and Thad (the gay couple) were intentionally portrayed as the most modest, healthiest couple in the film – how interesting.

A good one for discussion, even though we Americans like our movie-watching to be as passive as possible 😉 Rental.

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