Christmas is a magical time of year, full of misfit trees, sugar cookies, and movies about Will Ferrell frolicking around New York City in bright yellow tights. I own more holiday movies than I would care to admit, but there is one in particular I think deserves a little more recognition: a little gem called The Family Stone. I’ll admit each viewing requires about 2.5 million boxes of tissues (I rounded down to make you feel better), but it’s worth every single sniffle and lip quiver.
Let’s start out with the cast. You have Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, and the queen herself, Diane Keaton. Those are just the top billed. The supporting cast which includes Tyrone Giordano, Brian White, Elizabeth Reaser, and Paul Schneider is also phenomenal. In case that wasn’t enough, Claire Danes and SJP are sisters, and the rest are brothers and sisters (with the exception of Brian White who married into the Stone family and Paul Schneider who comes in later) who have Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton for parents. If the cast alone didn’t sell you, let’s talk about the storyline.
SJP essentially plays the anti-Carrie Bradshaw, and her boyfriend, Dermot Mulroney is, of course, from a close-knit and quirky family of seven. Sound boring and predictable? When you add one of the most uncomfortable (and actually really well-written) dinner scenes, complete with a beautiful moment between Diane Keaton and her son (played by the amazing Tyrone Giordano) showing how unconditional the love between a mother and child can be, it becomes something more. If your eyes are still dry, let me describe the scene that breaks me every time.
There are cuts to each member of the Stone family, along with SJP and Claire Danes, as they all accept a harsh reality (as well as a lot of other feels) I will not spoil for you in an attempt to peak your curiosity and hopefully make you want to watch it even more, while “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” a la Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis plays. It even starts with the Judy Garland scene, which makes me super emotional by itself, let alone as the preface to one of the saddest parts of the entire movie. The scene in this montage with Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton in bed together is one of the rawest cinematic moments I’ve ever seen between a husband and wife in a movie like this, and it’s only a few seconds long. When you finally realize how important this particular Christmas is, you’ll need rest of the other 2.5 million boxes of tissues I didn’t include in the beginning.
Finally, there are three solid (and somewhat unconventional, somewhat cheesy) love arcs to capture the complexities of falling in and out of love, allowing you to deviate (a bit) from the traditional holiday family drama romantic comedy formula. Not to mention, SJP dances with Paul Schneider (aka Mr. Mark Brendanawicz himself) to one of the best songs ever, “Right Back Where We Started From” by Maxine Nightingale, and SJP’s character, Meredith Morton, finally wins the Stone family’s approval with a Christmas gift that proves she understands them. As two bonus selling points, know there’s a fight between Luke Wilson and Dermot Mulroney, and Rachel McAdams Charlie Brown slides into the Morton Family Strata SJP made for Christmas breakfast. I promise you I couldn’t make any of this up if I tried.
It’s definitely not perfect. There are weak points. There’s a degree of predictability. There are lines you could make nachos with. In this writer’s humble opinion though, it definitely understated. That’s the (Family) Stone cold truth.
[Image via Universal Pictures]