Merry Christmas Eve, cray-zies.
‘Tis the season for indulging in full-fat everything, letting your muscles atrophy from promising to go to the gym tomorrow and binging on Netflix for 16 hours straight. Too bad you can’t purge that season of Easy. It just doesn’t work like that.
Speaking of regretful Netflix viewing, year after year I have my own lineup of Christmas movie faves (read: fails). They’re usually rated in the region of two to three stars, but the lower the better given my taste. There is one, however, that grated me more than usual this year. It’s The Family Stone.
Standard Christmas (grown-up) family fare, the film features an ensemble cast of Diane Keaton as the matriarch, Craig T. Nelson aka Coach as the patriarch and Dermott Mulroney, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson and other more forgettable actors as their many stereotypical adult children home for the holidays. The crux of the story finds Dermott Mulroney bringing home his uber-successful (read: up-tight, dried up) girlfriend played by Sarah Jessica Parker to meet the family. They freeze her our because god forbid she be focused on her career trajectory, so she calls her sister bizarrely played by Claire Danes (I say bizarrely because she’s young enough to be SJP’s daughter) to join in on the merriment and hospitality (or lack thereof) shown by the family Stone over Christmas. Stone is actually their last name, but incidentally they also like pot so ha ha cute double-entenre. Very clever.
In a nutshell, now that I am a single, career-focused woman myself, I took offence to the treatment of SJP’s character. She’s not only misunderstood; this unreasonable family has it in their own mind what a matriarch should be and if it is someone who refuses to spend even a moment out of the kitchen not criticizing relations near and far, she’s blacklisted in their books. I’ll get to the Diane Keaton character in a second. In the same vein as the Party of Five post, I’ll break each character down, roasting them to a crisp in the process.
Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker)
Even her name is uptight. How many young Merediths have you met recently? Granted this film was released in 2005, so I guess I’ll give that a pass. Poor Meredith. She didn’t stand a chance meeting her boyfriend Everett’s family for the first time. This was mainly due to having been pre-screened by his “kid” sister Amy, a teacher pursuing a masters degree. She must still have that Regina George venom coursing through her veins or something but she’s beyond unreasonable. She is especially bitter about how much Meredith speaks. Then when Meredith voices her discomfort about sharing a bedroom with her not-yet-fiance (fair and very polite, might I add), Amy pitches a fit that she’s taken her bedroom. Why do I feel like this whole situation could have been avoidable? On one hand the family Stone puts their guests before their own, but on the other hand they tsk and judge the whole damn time.
Then, that brat child of the middle witch from Charmed breaks the heel on Meredith’s no doubt $500 pair of shoes. When Meredith comes off as upset, it is SHE who seems ridiculous and petty. I think she handled it quite well. If someone broke the heel off my Choos I’d have ended them right there and then.
Ultimately [spoiler alert] the writers see Meredith as a more appropriate match for Everett’s pothead brother Ben. That seems like some sort of cruel and unusual punishment for a woman of Meredith’s calibre. But she seems happy enough at the end.
Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney)
I also do feel some empathy for this cad. He’s a straight-laced Manhattan suit that comes from a very laid-back family of hippies. In Meredith, he finds what he’s become, but his family – especially mama Stone – isn’t standing for any of it. I won’t spend long on Everett, because he isn’t that important. But, he did meet Meredith in Hong Kong on a business trip. And he’s kind of dominated by all the women in his life. I won’t even give him a GIF.
Sybil Stone (Diane Keaton)
Alright, so we come to find out she’s dying of breast cancer. That’s unfortunate. But that doesn’t make up for how rude she is to Meredith. Neither does the fact that she’s embraced her deaf son and his bi-racial, same-sex relationship. Very progressive especially for 2005, but none of these things make up for the fact that she’s kind of a jerk. Everett comes home to both request the family ring to propose to his girlfriend and seek her blessing and receives neither. With no good reason either, mind you. It just seems to me that because Meredith is the polar opposite of Sybil, she’s rejected. Whatever happened to love is love is love? Sybil does not so much as leave the house throughout the course of the film while Meredith on the other hand is a woman of the world. But we can’t criticize Sybil for this because remember, [in a hushed tone] she’s dying of cancer.
Amy Stone (Rachel McAdams)
I’ve covered Amy for the most part in Meredith’s section, but something I missed was Amy’s discomfort with her ex. Rather, the boy that “popped Amy’s cherry”. Her mother’s words. Not mine. Perhaps that’s the root of her dislike of Meredith infiltrating her family? Jealous? I don’t know, but Amy seems too nasty to be a realistic character. She definitely is projecting something on this situation, but being a 2-star movie, her personality disorder isn’t fully unpacked.
Ben Stone (Luke Wilson)
Somehow every movie he’s ever been in he’s played some variation of himself. I don’t feel the need to even go into this character because it’s basically the same old goofy stoner Luke Wilson. And yet somehow, he ends up with Meredith. He is realistically much closer to her worst nightmare of a mate than anything else. Is anyone else super uncomfortable when he gives her Sybil’s mug while she’s sitting in the car waiting to go to the inn? Long story short, SJP ends up with him at the end and I cannot understand why. Opposites do not attract. Or maybe they do, but they certainly do not end up functionally married. How is mom not even more pissed when they end up together? Oh right, she’s no longer around.
Julie Morton (Claire Danes)
As mentioned, playing SJP’s sister makes no sense for Claire Danes. She’s far too young. Also, way to have this situation backfire, Meredith. You bring Julie to Christmas with you after your future in-laws show their disdain for you only to have your partner fall for her? What a freaking mess. And then all of you turn up to Christmas dinner the next year? THIS MOVIE MAKES NO SENSE. Sounds like the start of sisterly estrangement to me. Anyway, Julie works for an NGO providing grants to young artists. Sounds like an extension of the family Stone if you ask me. Everett falls for her in no time, but no worries. Meredith is with Luke Wilson, so all good.
Ugh this movie. Once a favourite for reasons unknown. It’s marred with plot holes and a general nonsensical story arch. I’ll give it a pass next year. You should too.