"Where's the maid from 'Storytelling' when you need her?"
“The Family Stone” is an annoying dramedy about a closely-knit family that is perfectly willing to accept the various quirks and eccentricities of its own members while being surprisingly intolerant of those not blessed to be among their number. Perhaps they ask this way because they are afraid of having someone from outside of their cool little clique pointing out to them that are shrilly unpleasant and wildly self-absorbed dolts whom no one with any sense of taste or decorum would want to associate with in the first place.Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Meredith Morton, an exceptionally uptight woman (her entire body seems to be tied up in a severe bun) whose fiancee, Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) brings her home for the holidays so that she can meet the family for the first time. The problem is that his family–Dad Craig T. Nelson, Mom Diane Keaton, hipster-doofus brother Luke Wilson, embittered sister Rachel McAdams and a couple of other siblings not well-known enough to be featured on the poster–is a proudly iconoclastic bunch (Dad smokes pot with his son while Mom cheerfully discusses the details of her daughter’s defloration with a near-stranger) and they don’t understand why their son (who, frankly, also seems a little on the boring side) would want to throw his life away on someone who isn’t as wackily unconventional as they are. Therefore, they treat Meredith fairly rudely and when Everett asks his mother for the heirloom ring that she promised he could give to his betrothed, she flat-out refuses.
Okay, the film keeps telling us that the Stones are a proudly unconventional and diverse group–one of the son’s is deaf, gay and in an interracial relationship. Swell, but one of the chief flaws of “The Family Stone” is that the family is also profoundly unlikable–they are smug, self-righteous and emotionally in-bred jerks and their instant dislike for Parker seems wildly out of whack. As things develop and the unwarranted hostilities grow, not only do you not blame Parker when she wants to flee, you begin to hope that she does so late at night after turning on all the gas valves in the house.
Perhaps realizing how annoying these people are, the film tries to compensate by dragging in a tragic subplot for pathos and adding a truly awful scene in which Parker inadvertently offends everyone at the dinner table with conversation about the gay/deaf son that is so far beyond the pale that even Pat Buchanan might have suggested that she tone it down. The latter is perhaps the low point of the film because it is too grotesquely conceived and executed to be believed. A clever scene might have had Parker do it deliberately to point out that Keaton seems more interested in that child as a collection of special-interest talking points–instead, Parker does it (and keeps on doing it) because she is clueless and uptight and because it allows Keaton an Oscar clip moment where she can yell and tearfully say how much she treasures her child.What is really frustrating about “The Family Stone” is that if you can look past all the dreadful stuff here are some good individual scenes here and there (including a cruel but funny joke pulled during a game of charades) and a couple of good performances I especially liked the work from the appealingly surly McAdams as well the turn from Claire Danes as Parker’s sister who is brought in for moral support and who winds up further complicating things. but these are small compensations. By the time “The Family Stone” reaches its predictably unpredictable (and extremely unlikely) conclusion, you will probably be relieved that you will never have to spend another moment with these people again.