Sunday, December 25, 2011

25 Days of Christmas Movies, Day 25: Fitting in With Family

In my experience, I've found that those people who have close families and who participate in family traditions tend to be the happiest at the holidays.  That may be a gross generalization, but then again it may be true.  I know, from personal experience, that my family enjoys Christmas much more when we are together and are repeating the traditions that we have participated in over time.  This can be a blessing and a curse for people who are just beginning to join a family who has been entrenched in their own holiday traditions and plans so long, because it makes the newcomers feel like outsiders.  As you might imagine, the final film to be covered today is about this very subject and I am so pleased to conclude this year's 25 days of Christmas movies with it.  It is a film about the importance of family, but also about learning to welcome outsiders into a close knit family.  Now, without futher ado, let's celebrate Christmas by visiting with The Family Stone.

Meredith Morton is a successful Manhattan executive who is somewhat uptight and conservative.  This is in strict contrast to her boyfriend Everett Stone, who comes from a very liberal and eccentric family and who is constantly trying to get her to lighten up.  This Christmas, Everett is taking Meredith home to meet his family so that he can propose with the family ring but his younger sister Amy, who has already met Meredith, has already taken to bad-mouthing her to the family.  When Meredith arrives, she already has two strikes against her and, because she feels like an outsider, she decides to stay at the local Inn which is another strike against her.  Meredith asks her sister Julie to come to visit as well to help her cope, and Everett finds himself oddly drawn to her.  After a disastrous dinner discussion on nature vs. nurture and sexual orientation sends Meredith packing, Everett's brother Ben finds her and comforts her at a local bar...beginning an attraction between the two of them.  It appears that there are going to be plenty of surprises this Christmas wt the Stone household, and it may test the strength and resolve of the family.

The Family Stone is one of those great comic dramas that feels sincere and thus gives genuine laughs and dramatic highs and lows.  It really feels as though you are peeking through a window at a unique and tightly-knit family and how they react to someone who they feel is a usurper.  It is always a hard thing to accept new people in a family, and the members of the Stone family all have their own way of dealing with it.  Sybil, the mother (played by Diane Keaton), puts on a mask of friendliness while constantly attempting to be sure that Everett (Dermot Mulroney)  is making the right decision (and also is hiding the fact that she knows that cancer is about to kill her).  Kelly Stone (Craig T. Nelson), the father, takes a more quiet and restrained approach because Sybil is the real leader of the pack, but his influence is felt in all the corners of the family.  Amy (Rachel McAdams) reacts with open hostility to Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) in a way that only a younger sibling can, and is the most resistant to change because it scares her.  The differing reactions and levels of resistance are nuanced and do indeed feel real, which is why I enjoyed the film so much.  And what better season to have this kind of new introduction, than at Christmas time when family is key?  It is a wonderful story that steps outside of the normal template of "family is important" and is a great film to watch on Christmas Day to remind us that just because someone isn't a part of our family, that doesn't mean that they cannot be.  And thus, I conclude the Third Annual 25 Days of Christmas Movies and I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  I hope that you all have a magical yuletide experience and that you are surrounded by those that love you.

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