The Family Stone
Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha

Starring Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson


The Family Stone

There are feel-good movies and feel-bad movies. In its hour and forty-two-minute running time "The Family Stone" is a feel-bad, feel-good, feel-bad, feel-good, feel-bad, feel-good movie, which unfortunately makes for a pretty bad movie. Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, whose only previous work was the portentous but inept "Big Eden" of 2000, the film assembles a cast from just about everywhere - Diane Keaton as the matriarch of a loosey-goosey family, Craig T. Nelson as her husband Kelly, Sarah Jessica Parker as the not-at-all loosey-goosey fiancée of her son Everett (Dermot Mulroney), Rachel McAdams as Amy, the baby sister from hell, Ty Giordano as the gay deaf son Thad, Brian White as his black partner Patrick, Luke Wilson as the stoner son Ben; and Claire Danes as Meredith's sister Julie and a kind of savior to both Everett and Ben.

Maybe we should be grateful to Mr. Bezucha for writing so many characters into his film, but then again maybe not, because every one of them is a cliché. I believe Mr. Bezucha intends his film as a comedy, even, dare I say, a comedy like "The Royal Tenenbaums," but all he can think of is to pile contrivance on contrivance: Meredith and Everett are not meant for each other, which we see from the first moment of the film, but Ben will bring out the inner stoner in Meredith, while Everett and Julie will - oh, you're ahead of me. And did I mention that Thad and Patrick will adopt a son, and the only question will be whether he should be black or white, while Amy will go back to the guy who, as is pointed out in the film, popped her cherry.

Films like "The Family Stone" tend to throw so many things at us in hopes that something will stick, that we cringe at the barrage; instead of building characters and relationships from the inside out they try to work by means of externals. So in this film there are pratfalls, insults, missed connections and even, God help us, people in the wrong beds. To save you some time I will tell you that everyone on screen ends up happy. I wish I could say the same for the audience.