“Your home looks lovely. It’s as great as any hall.”
“Oh no, honey, nothing is as great as ‘Annie Hall.’”

The Stone Gauge

Look who’s coming to dinner. Pretty boy Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) brings girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) to meet his family for Christmas. This is a big big deal. He’s planning on proposing and it would help if the family approved. Of course, if the family gives consent, there wouldn’t be any movie to see.

The Stones looks warm, fun-loving, and photogenic for a family. In short, they resemble a family-pretend of actors, complete with their own looks and quirks. Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton play the parents. In addition to Everett, the grown-up children are: the pregnant Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser), the black sheep Ben (Luke Wilson), the deaf and gay Thad (Tyrone Giordano), and the instigator Amy (Rachel McAdams). Can Meredith fit in among them? Fat chance.

Although she is photogenic, Meredith is neither warm nor fun-loving. The Stones, somehow fondly, gauge her as too uptight and prissy. They don’t deem her as the right woman for Everett. Upon sensing this, Meredith struggles to calm her nerves. Oh the pressure to impress the Stones! Even when her sister (Claire Danes) advises to be herself, we’re not sure if that’s the solution.

“The Family Stone” has a promising premise. The chemistry among the family members is a smack-in-the-back-of-the-head funny. But the real treat is the introduction of Meredith. Once she comes in, friction slowly heats up like two rubbed stones about to catch fire. The odd thing is that neither party wants to cause harm; although that Amy (a very good McAdams) likes to stir some trouble.

The movie is quite bright for not taking sides and I was glad to be conflicted. I get where both opposing sides are coming from. The Stones might be a disapproving group, but you can understand why Meredith isn’t exactly winning them. And while Meredith is indeed uptight and fails to make a good impression, doesn’t it count that she’s trying? Ultimately, I think it is the Meredith character that elevates the movie. It would’ve been easy to make her a villain, but the movie admirably depicts her kindly, even with all her flaws intact. This is probably Sarah Jessica Parker’s best movie role and she nails it. Meredith isn’t quite as lovable as Carrie Bradshaw, but Parker gives them both equal dose of humanity and vulnerability.

Despite these good things, the movie’s second half is badly written. I guess writer Thomas Bezucha wants to refresh the film with twists. The result is stale and hardly credible. It could be the case of forcing characters to conform to a plot. Or a bad case of underdeveloped characters, where we don’t get enough info about characters’ actions. You know what. I can come up with a better and more convincing happy ending. I’d make the Stone family stoned. That way, everybody’s happy and the movie ends on a high.

Grade: B+

CAST
Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, and Tyrone Giordano
Screenplay by
Thomas Bezucha
Directed by
Thomas Bezucha
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, and drug references
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