Thursday, May 9, 2013

# 81: The Family Stone (2005)

Code-name: [Formerly] Her Last Christmas... [now dubbed] Mushroom Allergy

Writer/Director: Thomas Bezucha
Type: Family-oriented Christmas Dramedy

Mr. Kelly Stone- Craig T. Nelson
Mrs. Sibyl Stone- Diane Keaton
Everett Stone- Dermot Mulroney
Meredith Morton- Sarah Jessica Parker
Amy Stone- Rachel McAdams
Susannah Stone- Elizabeth Reaser
Ben Stone- Luke Wilson
Thad Stone- Tyone Giordano
Patrick Thomas- Brian White 
Julie Morton- Claire Danes
Brad Stevenson- Paul Schneider

Notable nomination:
Golden Globe- Best Actress (comedy/musical)- Sarah Jessica Parker


If I'm not dubbing these movies after animal characters, the 2nd easiest go-to is a quote from the movie...

One of my favorite lines comes during a scene where Meredith is making Christmas breakfast the night before and is told that her boyfriend Everett is allergic to mushrooms.
The second time this happens, she immediately freaks out and as I tend to do during my favorite on-screen freak-outs, I scream along without her: "I didn't know!!"

I think this was another one of those in-flight movies my dad recommended we watch.
And it's become somewhat of a staple during Christmastime.
I believe I watched it last Christmas Eve, but my memory escapes me.

Right now, it's hard to put my finger on exactly why this is one of my favorite movies.
I come from a large quirky family (relatively speaking, my immediate family places me as one of 4), so part of me does get into it for that reason.

Without taking any of the good quotes into account, my love of this movie comes down to some of the actors and the characters they play.

This was Rachel McAdams (one of my favorite actresses) just after her "Notebook" success and after she, unknowingly, leaped into our hearts in "Mean Girls." With the exception of 1-2 roles, she seems to fill up the archetype of "designated bitch." Not to the same degree as Regina George, mind you, but Amy Stone is really mean to Everett's girlfriend Meredith... seemingly for no apparent reason.

Maybe she and her overprotective, tightly-knit family are under the impression that nobody is good enough for him-- certainly not a stuffy, uptight businesswoman like Meredith.

Here's the crazy part:
I found Sarah Jessica Parker extremely refreshing in this capacity, so much so that my opinion on her changed in an instant.
I can't explain exactly why I disliked her so much as I did previously. I never saw any of "Sex in the City," but in whatever I'd seen her in previously, she gave me the impression she was a complete airhead, someone I could never take seriously.

As Meredith, I enjoyed her performance and felt really bad that she couldn't gain the favor of the Stones no matter what she did.

The basic premise follows that this is Christmastime and we're spending it with a large family with the surname Stone.
You have the happily married couple, patriarch and matriarch.
Five siblings:
Amy (single, but the end suggests she'll rekindle an old relationship)
Susannah (married, one daughter and another baby on the way)

Thad (deaf, in a happy relationship with his boyfriend, Patrick)

and Everett who is bringing his girlfriend Meredith home to meet the family.

As previously mentioned, for whatever reason, the Stones have deemed Meredith not to be good enough for Everett even before meeting her... seemingly based on one time when Amy met her and disliked her.
It's gotta be more than just the fact "she's a throat-clearer," something she and the other Stones make fun of whenever they get the chance... and the fact she has to give up her bedroom to accommodate (although that'd be a more legit reason than the previous one).

Meredith feels so unwelcome she breaks down and has her younger sister to come stay with her in a hotel.
Julie, of course, is the prettier, nicer, more out-going on sister, and everyone loves her... naturally this treatment has Julie wondering why Meredith begged her to join her.

Admittedly, things get out of control during a conversation at the dinner table... which makes one wonder why they put it in the script because there is literally no way for Meredith to come off well.
One lesson to be taken from this is that if you're getting to know people for the first time, do not bring up the nature vs. nurture debate.

Mrs. Stone sarcastically comments that she had hoped all of her sons were gay because then they would never leave her.
To which Meredith asks "you wouldn't actually wish for your children to be gay, do you?"
going on to say life is hard enough as it is and to make easier for the child to navigate it, she wouldn't wish it...

The misunderstanding escalates until the dinner table explodes with screaming and swearing, leaving Meredith no choice but to run out of the house.

It's the toughest part of the film to endure and, of course, all of us watching are screaming for Meredith to shut up and backtrack before initiating the wrath of the matriarch...
spectuators eveywhere probably agreed that she should have let the topic drop because there was nowhere good for it to go.

In her attempt to escape, she accidentally crashes her car into a tree. Ben goes out to see how she's doing and he takes her out for a couple beers so she can loosen up.
At the bar, they meet up with a couple of EMTs. One of them happens to be Brad, whom Meredith (more than a little intoxicated by this point) recognizes via previous conversation as "the guy who popped Amy's cherry" and she begs him to go to the house on Christmas, believing Amy would be happy to see him.

The scene doesn't last long, but this is one of my favorite parts of the whole movie. Meredith finally loosens up and relaxes, dancing to the jukebox and all that, and she doesn't invoke the airheadness of her past life on "Sex in the City." There's just something about the way it's written and acted I just love.

Just to briefly address the sensitive issue from my perspective, to quote a distraught but newly intoxicated Meredith early into the bar scene, "I love the gays! Gay people!"
I respect them, support their right to marriage, adoption and so on, and believe it's a non-genetic predisposition they're born with.
Gays & Lesbians are great people. 8-)

And to stop myself from coming off overally preachy, I'm going to leave it at that.

spoilers ahead

Another major storyline in the movie is the fact Diane Keaton's character's breast cancer came back and it is assumed (evidence at the end of the movie supports this) she is terminal. The news leaks out little by little and everyone in the family uses it as an opportunity to embrace one another and stay as tightly-knit as they are.

Apparently, it isn't intergal to the overall plot because it's only mentioned a few times... unlike "Step-Mom," where it was an ever-developing plot point.
A couple people on IMDB brought this up and I can't help but agree that's a little... odd... that little attention is brought to it outside of 2-3 scenes and the final epilogue.

A couple of times, Everett asks his mom for "the ring" because he wants to propose to Meredith, which she shoots down each time. Then he picks up his own ring and asks Julie to try it on for size.
It fits, but they have trouble getting it off... which brings hilarity and awkwardness... slowly, things give way and the women end up changing partners.

Everett ends up falling for the younger sister, Julie.
Ben manages to get Meredith back home in one piece and she wakes up to find herself in his bed... leaving her to believe that they slept together... a point Ben later corrects, but a relationship eventually does develop between them.
Luke Wilson doesn't play the sharpest crayon in the box, as in he has a frat-boy-like demeanor, whatever the male equivalent of an airhead is. A few comments on the page indicate he helped make the movie easier to get through. He's easily the nicest, easiest-going of the Stones.

Finally on Christmas morning, when the 2nd misunderstanding occurs and Mr. Stone is chasing Ben around the house to get at him, displeased with what he and Meredith supposedly did (which they didn't), Meredith is in the kitchen getting her breakfast dishes out to put in the oven, the kitchen door swings into her, making her drop it.
Mrs. Stone and Amy go in there to help her clean up, she's in hysterics, and they do their best to make her feel better.

Meredith Morton: [crying] I'm just as good as any of you!
Amy Stone: [laughing and crying at the situation] Maybe better.
Meredith Morton: [still crying] What's so great about you guys?
Sybil Stone: [laughing and crying along with Amy... patting Meredith's cheeks] Oh, nothing! It's just that we're all that we've got

Overall, the sequence is very slapstick-ish in an old school sort of way, but it accomplishes its intented purpose: to finally clear the air between Meredith and the Stones.

And in the end, all of it works out quite well.

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