The Family Stone

Cover Art: 6/10
This is a star studded cast so it’s only fair that they stick their little faces on the cover. It is functional and inviting to the “comfort movie” shopper in the local DVD shop. I’m just wondering if Craig T. Nelson cares that Luke Wilson’s picture is about 4 times bigger… hmmm I like the movie poster much better than the DVD cover.

The menus are in keeping with the opening credits of the film. I appreciate the effort to make it a packaged deal once you get the disc in, so why couldn’t they have done something similar on the cover? I’ll call them up and ask about that. 🙂

Features: 7/10

  • Commentary By Sarah Jessica Parker & Dermot Mulroney – For some movies I enjoy hearing the cast talk about their experiences making the film, but this time I think the movie speaks for himself. It’s not artsy or particularly interesting so any commentary can’t do much to enhance the movie.
  • Commentary By Director Thomas Bezucha, producer Michael London and Editor Jeffrey Ford – I have to say the same for this commentary. I wasn’t that taken with the movie so hearing the people who created it didn’t add anything to make me want to sit through it all again.
  • Deleted Scenes – We get six deleted scenes that are more extensions of scenes in the movie rather than full on cut out scenes.
  • Casting Session Featurette – They had a hard time getting this movie made apparently. They had a whole other cast ready to film when the deal fell through, and only later got the final ensemble cast gathered for the project. I’m usually interested in the machine that makes movies down thar in good ol’ Hollywood, but this cast is a bit contrived for me, so it’s not that big of a deal.
  • World Premiere Featurette – After the final cut, when the movie is ready for public consumption it’s time for everyone to dress up and sit in a theater to watch it for the first time. It’s a glamorous affair, but still a bit bland for me on this occasion.
  • Behind The Scenes Featurette – More of this cozy little cast and crew and interviews with the writer/director that further carry on the whole idea that this group of actors became a family on the set to make them seem more real on the big screen.
  • Q&A At The Actors Guild Theatre – A lot of giggling and actor posturing makes this kind of an annoying little extra if you ask me. The host guy asks the same kinds of questions every artsy film college dude asks and the cast are so self indulgent with their in jokes and familiar glances it’s more like the popular kids at a class reunion.
  • Gag Reel – Just a few fun moments when the cast forget their lines, miss their marks, and get the laughing bug in the middle of the scene
  • Theatrical Trailer – blah

The Movie: 7/10
Without trying to sound snotty, I have to say this movie is quaint. Quaint in a Hollywood indulgent, “we’re telling story about a REAL family” kind of way. They are a real family, and no matter how many times they insist that these characters are so real, so believable, and so complex, they are kind of like cardboard cut outs to me. I did laugh a lot, and I cried a bit (the harsh truth), but as I watched I was always very aware of the over writing, exaggerated characterizations of certain personality types, and the over sentimentality that someone in this process has about families. They want to point out their imperfections, frailties, and all that warm family togetherness. They attempt to do this with stereotypes and stage-like performances. The slacker daughter who dresses down, eats a lot of cereal, and is the bratty youngest child even as an adult. She’s charming and all, but she’s a bit too manufactured for me.

The oldest, “Mr. Perfect” son who seems to be a step away from this otherwise laid back, casual family crew. He’s basically got no personality beyond the bratty younger sister telling him fix his tie, implying that he’s being fake. He’s kind of an empty character, and that’s part of his journey I suppose. He’s looking for the right woman and is a bit confused about who he wants and who he is, but they write him to be so confused that he is more of a nobody than a somebody looking to find himself. The main theme of the movie is that he has brought home a chick to marry who is up tight and seemingly horrible and who the family dislikes right away. Throughout the story their delicate relationship is woven in with family issues, various siblings, etc.

There’s the pot smoking brother who is ultra laid back and carefree. I love Luke Wilson, and even though I laughed a lot when it came time for him to do his thing on screen, he was still such a cookie cutter shape of what this type of person should be it was a bit disappointing.

I’m sounding like I’m not into this movie at all, that’s not really the truth. I did enjoy it, mostly. It’s just that when they are trying to convince you that this family you are watching is so real and so much like how families really are, it’s such bullshit. This family has problems, yes, one big problem in particular that I won’t mention because it’s woven into the story delicately and I don’t want to ruin things for you…..that being said, this family is NOT realistic. They are a bit too cutesy, too witty. It’s a romanticized look at how a family could be.

The parent’s are tolerant and groovy, but still obviously successful and well off, best of both worlds. Diane Keaton is always pretty much the same, her characters age with her but always have that certain flippant care free attitude. At least that’s how she plays them. I like a lot of her dialogue in The Family Stone, she reminds me of my mom sometimes, but without the skunk stripped hair 🙂

They have a gay deaf son who’s partner is African American, they have a hippy son, a slacker daughter, a daughter who’s having babies and is happily married, the oldest son who’s successful and handsome. Oh yes, did I mention that everyone in this family happens to be endlessly attractive? I know there are families who have the “Pretty Gene” but they are rare and to model a family around the idea that no one is overweight, alcoholic, depressed, boring, miserable, or unlikable isn’t horrible, but don’t try to cram down my throat how you have tried to create a real life family. They ain’t real, they are a fantasy. A well groomed, carefully written fantasy designed to make you think that out there in the world are these quaint little groups of people mocking the fact that you have a sleazy uncle who comes to Christmas wasted and looking for a fight, or your creepy cousin who is 42 years old and endlessly talks about his Star Wars collection and how Darth Vader is an archetype of the clash of good and evil. Maybe you have the sister who shows up late, complains about her life and leaves early because no one understands her. There’s always someone in a true family, more than one actually, who is unhappy, untamed, and who doesn’t translate well onto the big screen when trying to tell a story about what people WANT a family to be.

I liked the movie, surprise, surprise, I just didn’t like that it’s trying to be an infomercial for the all American, liberal minded, semi-functional, charming family and make us all want to erase the ones in our own families who don’t quite fit into this script. I think if it had been a bit more comedic and laid off the more serious subject matter, which I felt was tossed in for dramatic effect and not to truly explore the reality of tragic things in our lives, I might not be so harsh about the whole family REAL or NOT REAL thing.

You will laugh at a lot of the slap stick stuff, and a lot of the dialogue is funny enough, so it’s worth a watch if you like any of the cast or if you like movies that help you pretend that your family is full of beautiful people who’s problems are well contained and disguised with clever chit chat written by people who’s off-screen families are as screwed up as yours.

Value: 6/10
I was hoping this was a bargain DVD at around 10-12 dollars, but of course it’s not. I say rent this sucker when you are in the mood for some sappy film family watching. If you want to own it, wait until Christmas, I bet it will be in that big cage in the isle at your local discount super center with a low price tag on it.

Overall Score 7/10