The Family Stone
|The Family Stone|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Thomas Bezucha|
|Produced by||Michael London|
|Written by||Thomas Bezucha|
Craig T. Nelson
Sarah Jessica Parker
Brian J. White
|Music by||Michael Giacchino|
|Editing by||Jeffrey Ford|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||104 minutes|
The Family Stone is a 2005 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Thomas Bezucha. Produced by Michael London and distributed by 20th Century Fox, it stars an ensemble cast, including Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Claire Danes, Rachel McAdams, Tyrone Giordano, Brian J. White, and Elizabeth Reaser.
The plot follows the Christmas holiday misadventures of the Stone family in a small New England town when the eldest son, played by Mulroney, brings his uptight girlfriend (played by Parker) home with the intention of proposing to her with a cherished heirloom ring. Overwhelmed by the hostile reception, she begs her sister to join her for emotional support, triggering further complications.
The Family Stone was released in North America on November 26, 2005 and was a moderate critical and commercial success, with a worldwide gross of over US$92.2 million. While Parker was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance, Keaton, Nelson and McAdams garnered a Satellite Award nomination each. In addition, McAdams was awarded a Teen Choice Award the following year.
Set in the fictional town of Thayer, Connecticut, the story focuses on Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker), a successful Manhattan executive whose uptight, conservative demeanor is a sharp contrast to that of her boyfriend Everett (Dermot Mulroney) and his liberal and rambunctious family.
Meredith, feeling very much an outsider during the Christmas holidays with Everett's family, opts to stay at the local inn instead of with the family and asks her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to join her for support. Everett finds himself attracted to the more outgoing Julie. Meredith desperately tries to fit in, but her strained attempt to play charades and a clumsy effort to engage the family in a dinner table discussion about nature versus nurture and sexual orientation prove to be disastrous and Amy Stone (Rachel McAdams) insults her. Distraught, Meredith attempts to drive off but crashes the car, and Everett's brother Ben (Luke Wilson) comes to comfort her. The two end up at a local bar where, after several drinks, Meredith begins to enjoy herself. She invites Amy's high school flame and local paramedic, Brad Stevenson (Paul Schneider), to the Stones' for Christmas breakfast. The following morning, when she awakens in Ben's bed, she incorrectly assumes their night of revelry ended with the two sleeping together.
Christmas proves to be a day of accusations, recriminations, self-discoveries, and attempts to mend fences. Sybil (Diane Keaton), who originally refused Everett's request for his grandmother's ring, reconsiders her position and offers it to him; but, by now, his feelings for Meredith have shifted to her sister. In a moment of emotional confusion – or clarity – he asks Julie to try on the ring, and it gets stuck. When Julie and Meredith lock themselves in the bathroom to get the ring off, they assume Everett is about to propose to Meredith. The family exchanges gifts; and Meredith, oblivious to Sybil's failing health, presents each with a framed enlarged photograph of Sybil taken when she was pregnant with Amy. Everyone is touched by her gesture, and Meredith relaxes slightly; but, when Everett asks to talk to her, she demurs again and again until she blurts out that she will not marry him. He counters that he didn't plan to ask her. Meredith breaks down in front of the family. All the personality conflicts come to a head, and everyone begins the process of healing.
One year later, the family reunites at the Stone house. Meredith and Ben are a couple, as are Everett and Julie and Amy and Brad. Everett's brother Thad and his partner Patrick have adopted a baby boy named Gus, and Everett's other sister, Susannah, has had her baby. It is hinted that Sybil passes away. She is referenced as the family gathers with family Christmas ornaments around the tree. The framed photograph of Sybil is on the wall next to the tree.
- The Stones
- Diane Keaton as Sybil Stone, the family's strong-willed, bohemian matriarch. A breast cancer survivor, she deals with the recurrence of the fatal illness. Playing the glue that holds the family together, Keaton was the first actor approached to star in the film. With her attachment to the project, Bezucha and London were able to recruit other actors from their wish list. Keaton has stated, that she was instantly drawn to her role, as the many layers to Sybil's personality allowed her "to explore so many – often conflicting – emotions."
- Craig T. Nelson as Kelly Stone, Sybil's husband, a college professor in his sixties. Attracted to the role, Nelson felt Kelly was different compared to other patriarchs: "Kelly appears to be the traditional titular head of the Stone household, but it is Sybil who really dominates the family. Despite his low-key personality, Kelly's calming yet offbeat influence on each of his five children is obvious."
- Dermot Mulroney as Everett Stone, Sybil and Kelly's eldest son, a successful Manhattan executive. Mulroney found it challenging playing a seemingly over-achieving, submissive character, commenting, "Everett starts out very button-downed and straight-laced, but by the end of the story he returns to his real personality. He is really like the rest of the Stone family: loose and kind of bohemian."
- Luke Wilson as Ben Stone, Everett's brother, a stoner and film editor, living in Berkeley, California. Wilson characterized Ben as a dramatic contrast to his straight-and-narrow brother Everett: "Compared to his siblings, Ben is a loser character. He's the free spirit of the family."
- Elizabeth Reaser as Susannah Stone Trousdale, the Stones' eldest daughter. A stay-at-home mom who has one child, Elizabeth (Savannah Stehlin), she is expecting her second.
- Tyrone Giordano as Thad Stone, the family's youngest son. A deaf and gay architect, who lives in Boston and is contemplating adopting a child with his partner Patrick. Bezucha recruited the services of a sign language teacher who worked closely with each actor in the instruction of American Sign Language during rehearsals and throughout production.
- Rachel McAdams as Amy Stone, the youngest member of the family. Amy is a school teacher pursuing her Masters Degree, who had previously met Meredith and took an immediate dislike to her. McAdams said she felt "drawn to the dramatic arc that Amy goes through, which eventually brings her full circle. She sees herself as honest, not mean, and expresses that uncensored candor in her sardonic wit."
- Sarah Jessica Parker as Meredith Morton, Everett's girlfriend, an uptight, contemporary New York City career woman from Bedford, New York, who initially fails to bond with her boyfriend's family. Cast amid the final season of her HBO series Sex and the City, Parker, who had struggled to find a role that distinguished from her television character, declared Meredith a breakaway from her previous roles: "She is ... controlling, rigid and tightly wound. When she tries to dig herself out of awkward moments, she only makes matters worse."
- Claire Danes as Julie Morton, Meredith's younger sister, who works at a foundation awarding grants to artists. She arrives with the Stones to provide moral support when her sister's life is in a state of chaos. Danes has stated that the film's delicate balance of comedy and drama challenged the cast to walk a fine line between the two styles.
- Brian J. White as Patrick Thomas, Thad's partner.
- Paul Schneider as Brad Stevenson, Amy's ex-boyfriend.
- Bryce Harris as Baby Gus
Songs heard on the film's soundtrack include:
- "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" performed by Dean Martin
- "Jingle Bells" performed by Johnny Mercer
- "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" performed by Elvin Bishop
- "Miracles" and "Count on Me" performed by Jefferson Starship
- "Right Back Where We Started From" performed by Maxine Nightingale
- "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" performed by Judy Garland in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis, which Susanna watches in a scene.
The film received generally mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 52% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 151 reviews, with a rating average of 5.9 out of 10. The critical consensus is: "This family holiday dramedy features fine performances but awkward shifts of tone." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 56 based on 35 reviews.
On the negative side, Manohla Dargis opened her damning review in the New York Times, with "All happy families resemble one another, Tolstoy famously wrote, and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, but Tolstoy didn't know the Stones, who are happy in a Hollywood kind of way and unhappy in a self-help kind of way. This tribe of ravenous cannibals bares its excellent teeth at anyone who doesn't accommodate the family's preening self-regard." and went on from there to blister the film for almost every scene and aspect. Among her sharper comments were:
- "There are few character types Hollywood loves to hate more than the female business executive, what the movies once called a 'career woman.'"
- "The hitch here is that Mom is fairly monstrous, and most of her five kids fairly unbearable."
- "Shrouded in saintliness and as neutered as geldings, Thad and Patrick offer further proof that as far as pop culture representation is concerned, gay men are fine, as long as they're redecorating or straighter than straight."
- "... the women are pills, but they're also far more fun to watch than the men, who all are terribly kind and dull, dull, dull."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four. He stated the film "is silly at times, leaning toward the screwball tradition of everyone racing around the house at the same time in a panic fueled by serial misunderstandings [but] there is also a thoughtful side, involving the long and loving marriage of Sybil and Kelly." He further added, "The Family Stone sorts out its characters admirably, depends on typecasting to help establish its characters more quickly, and finds a winding path between happy and sad secrets to that moment when we realize that the Family Stone will always think of this fateful Christmas with a smile, and a tear."
In Variety, Justin Chang called the film "a smart, tart but mildly undercooked Christmas pudding" and added the "lovingly mounted ensembler has many heartfelt moments and a keen ear for the rhythms of domestic life, which make the neatly gift-wrapped outcome somewhat disappointing ... Bezucha tosses the viewer into every conversation headfirst, deploying a rough, at times disorienting visual style that works in rhythm with the layers of overlapping dialogue to deliver a pleasingly antic, semi-improvisational feel ... but while individual scenes have an authentically off-the-cuff feel, the narrative structure as a whole feels a tad schematic."
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, "A contemporary version of the traditional screwball romantic comedy, The Family Stone is a film that's at times as ragged and shaggy as its family unit. But as written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, its offbeat mixture of highly choreographed comic crises and the occasional bite of reality make for an unexpectedly enticing blend." In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers rated the film three out of a possible four stars and added, "It's a comedy with a dash of tragedy – the kind of thing that usually makes me puke. But I fell for this one ... Writer-director Thomas Bezucha lays it on thick, but he knows the mad-dog anarchy of family life and gives the laughs a sharp comic edge."
The film opened at #3 at the U.S. Box office raking in $12,521,027 USD in its first opening weekend. After spending 15 weeks in theatres, The Family Stone earned $60,062,868 in the US and $32,220,983 in foreign markets, bringing its worldwide total to $92,283,851.
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Sarah Jessica Parker)
- Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Craig T. Nelson)
- Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams)
- GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film in Wide Release
- Casting Society of America Artios Award for Best Feature Film Casting – Comedy
- American Cinema Editors Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical
- The Family Stone (2005). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- "The Family Stone Production Notes". HollywoodJesus.com. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
- The Family Stone Movie Reviews, Pictures. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- "The Family Stone: Reviews (2005)". Metacritic. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
- Ebert, Roger (2005-12-16). "The Family Stone : Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
- Change, Justin (2005-12-12). "Review of The Family Stone (2005)". Variety. Retrieved 2011-02-10.