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  1. #1
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    Exclamation The Family Stone - An Early Review

    Today, I was lucky enough, as part of the Swindon Film Festival, to see The Family Stone, 3 weeks before release. Want to find out what I made of it? Well, see below.
    In case you aren't familiar with film's premise, I'll give you the general gist. Everett (Dermot Mulroney) is bringing his uptight girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) to the Stone family's re-union at Christmas. Comprising the Stone family is loving mother Sybil (Diane Keaton), bitchy sister Amy (Rachael McAdams), who's met Meredith before (taking an instant dislike to her), laid back brother Ben (Luke Wilson), father Kelly (Craig T. Nelson), gay Thad (Ty Giordano), who's brought boyfriend Patrick (Brian White) and pregnant Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser), complete with her daughter Elizabeth. The family are very critical of Meredith, espically Amy, which creates enough tension to force Meredith to call in her sister Julie (Claire Danes). However, that only creates more problems...
    If there's anything to note here, it's that it's not a straight comedy as some trailers suggest. It's more of a comedy drama that while generating a few laughs, is never hilarious. There's also the fact that the film is quite lesuirely and slow paced, which may be off-putting to some.
    Stick with it, though, and you'll find a charming story with some well-evolved characters. The slow pace kind of helps put the plot in perspective (because, as you can see from my synopsis, there is quite alot going on) and gives time to develop lot of the principals. It helps that alot of the talented cast know how to fill their roles fantastically and their performances help the film to no end. Keaton and McAdams are both terrific, particularly Keaton, as she brings warmth to what could have been an unlikable character in the hands of other actresses.
    What surprised me about the film, in general, was it's sensitivity. With a film that has two gay characters in a romantic relationship and a character dying of breast cancer, the film runs the occasional risk of being sentimental and heavy-handed. But they are handled very carefully, and there are two scenes that highlight this. The first is a dinner scene that turns deadly dark at one point. When the two gay characters talk about adopting a baby, the conversation turns incredibly topical. Most screenplays eould probably chicken out or balk, but The Family Stone stays very firm. The tension in the scene translates to the audience, as everything from race to where sexual preference are brought up. It's very well done and with complete subtlelty. The second is quite emotionally powerful. Keaton and Nelson talk on their bed about Keaton's condition. The dialouge from Keaton is terrific here. But more impressive is the shot of Keaton with scars on her chest. The shot tells you everything you need to know and it's power can't be under-estimated. The film never speaks down to it's audience, because it knows it never has to. The performer's expressions say it all. The Family Stone is at it's best when it goes in bolder direction than you'd first expect.
    On the downside, I thought that Mulroney was slightly mis-cast. He kind of felt wooden and often seems a bit sulky. Also, despite it's otherwise great treatment in the film, the scene with Wilson and Nelson which introduces Keaton's breast cancer to the audience kind of comes out of nowhere. It left me kind of confused rather than emotional, which is unfortunate. Also, at times, it feels just a tad too slow, with possible pacing problems in the middle. Susannah is also under-used and at times feels like more a tinsel background decoration.
    In conclusion, The Family Stone is good film to catch this year if you want to see something other than King Kong or Narnia. It's unfortunate that it's coming out in the midst of these epics, because it runs a severe risk of being unable to find an audience, which is a shame, because this film deserves attention. It may not be to everyone's taste, but it's definetly a cosy film to warm up to on Christmas time.

    8/10
    Last edited by Matt; 11-27-2005 at 09:36 AM.

  2. #2
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    This review has now been published on Ain't It Cool News.

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