Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tonight's Movie: The Family Stone (2005)

I wasn't certain just how much I'd enjoy THE FAMILY STONE, given that it centers around a family of rather self-aborbed liberals who are their own biggest fan club. Somewhat to my surprise, I confess that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Although the film had some modern "politically correct" sensibilities (complete with homosexual son and partner among those gathered around the family table), it simultaneously had a decidedly old-fashioned appeal, starting off with Dean Martin singing Christmas music and opening credits set against vintage Christmas cards. When the credits faded to the lovely multi-story family home, my daughter whispered "This reminds me of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS." Little did we know that that classic film plays a key role late in the movie; its use was very effective, layering a viewer's nostalgic emotions for the older movie with reactions to some moving moments in the modern film.

The Stone family members are not always likeable, particularly at the outset, but they're definitely interesting. Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle describes Diane Keaton's no-holds-barred mother as someone "who mistakes her progressive politics for personal virtue and her...aggression for forthright honesty," yet also describes her as "riveting." He's got her pegged exactly right. (The direct link to his review isn't working but can be accessed by clicking on "External Reviews" on the lefthand column at the IMDb link above.)

The characters do show greater warmth as the film progresses, especially as an increasingly chaotic Christmas morning unfolds with life-changing ramifications for all. The film is carefully balanced between humor and sentiment, ending in a lovely though bittersweet epilogue.

As a side note, the sets are wonderful. The Stone family kitchen is filled with eye candy for anyone who loves vintage cookware or cookbooks. Tiny details which might not be noticed by all viewers, such as the granddaughter reading a LITTLE HOUSE book on Christmas Eve, added to the sense of a real family in a lived-in home.

I particularly enjoyed reviews by Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin (click on "Leonard's Picks" and scroll down), and James Bernardelli (accessible via "External Reviews" at the subject line link).

Highly recommended.


Blogger UGN said...

Saw "End of the Spear" today. If you want to see yet another example of how tolerant "they" are of us, read the reviews on the Rotton Tomato web site. Reviewers can't get past the idea that Christian missionaries and their story are a worthy subject. Sample (and all-too-typical) liberal take is when they say the movie is racist because in some scenes with the native Ecuadorian tribes they have bongo-type drums in the sound track. Huh?

8:33 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

What did you think of the movie? I heard several radio ads for it before I realized it was the story of Elisabeth Elliot, et al.

Really sad about the reviewers!

8:35 PM  
Blogger UGN said...

I had such low expectations after reading all of those reviews that I was really kind of dreading seeing it; however, I ended up enjoying it. I think it is hard for me to be an unbiased critic though, because I have been familiar with and enthralled by the story for years. To see it unfold on the big screen with additional details was going to be satisfying to me. I think they pretty much bent over backwards to not offend people by being preachy, but they still got slammed for "Davey and Goliath didacticism."

As a Christian I know the portrayal of the missionaries was unrealistic because it really didn't touch much on their spiritual lives or motivations. You don't really get much depth out of any of the characters. The only real spiritual moments are from the point of view of the tribesmen. Maybe 20 seconds worth of subtitled dialog gave the tribes explanation of the Christian message. You couldn't have sanitized (?) it much more for the secular masses, yet they still complained. I think one reviewer put it best when he said "Conservatives will overpraise it and liberals with overcritize it." I don't overpraise it, but have a hard time being critical because I am so taken by the story. I suppose if I never had heard of the situation and just stumbled into a movie theatre, I would find it a bit slow and hard to follow at first.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Enjoyed hearing your thoughts on the film. I think the subject matter would be too much for me to deal with seeing visually, if that makes sense, but I certainly agree it's a great story.

6:04 PM  

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