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family_stoneSo, my husband challenged me a while back to try to find something teachable in The Family Stone.  I’m not sure if that was because he didn’t think I’d be able to do anything with it, or what.  However, there are few movies I bother with that don’t have something worth learning in them – even if it’s by making sure to do the complete opposite.  So I accepted the challenge.  Plus, being set during the holidays – maybe it will help anyone who’s a slightly cynical soul looking for a holiday movie that’s not “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “The Grinch that Stole Christmas.”

The Family Stone is the classic, “bring the girlfriend home to meet the parents” movie.  Everything that can go wrong, does – and throw in some dark humor with a dying parent, a switcheroo and you’ve got it.  Dermot Mulroney plays Everett Stone and Sarah Jessica Parker plays his girlfriend Meredith Morton.  Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson are Everett’s parents and Rachel McAdams and Luke Wilson play Everett’s siblings (there’s another brother and sister, too, who are recognizable but not listed among the movie’s star roles).  Meredith is already on edge after a rocky lunch with Everett’s sister Amy (McAdams) as Everett takes her to meet his parents for Christmas.  Meredith is stiff and while she means well, just about everything she does is seen as pretentious and snotty.  So, when Everett asks his mother for the family engagement ring, she refuses.  Not to be stopped, Everett soldiers on and buys a ring to propose to Meredith.  Due to all that has gone wrong, Meredith asks her sister, Julie (played by Claire Danes), to join her so she’s at least got someone on her side.  Add some alcohol and reuniting with some old friends and you have the essence of The Family Stone.

Despite its PG-13 rating, I wouldn’t show this to a young group of teens.  The situations encountered are very adult, plus the sex and drug references might be uncomfortable for many.  Some may also find the incredibly liberal Stone household offensive.  So consider yourself warned if you think that may concern you.  If you decide to give it a try what can you get out of it?

1.  Let your freak flag fly.  In other words, be yourself.  Maybe Meredith really was being herself, but based on what we see later in the movie, her nerves had her putting on airs – and it definitely wasn’t appreciated in the Stone household.  In fact, it’s commented on that she seems so insecure that they don’t think she knows herself.  Then Julie arrives on the scene.  Julie is natural, unassuming, and seems to get along with the Stones just fine; so much so, that she can’t see why Meredith wanted her to come so badly.  Once she loosened up, Meredith showed that she really could be fun.  We also see that Meredith is a thoughtful person when it’s all said and done.

2.  Sometimes there’s more to the story than we realize.  Sybil Stone, Everett’s mother has a reoccurrence of her cancer.  She and Kelly (Nelson) have opted not to tell the family until after Christmas has passed.  Ironically, Ben (Wilson), who you might claim was the oblivious one in the family, is the one who figures it out first.  Sybil’s need to make sure that all of the kids are taken care of before her death comes out as being overbearing and unforgiving, at least as far a Meredith is concerned.  She even makes the comment that it’s not her (Meredith) that’s the problem, it’s just that she and Everett aren’t a good fit and she doesn’t think she’ll be around to help him sort it out.  It does eventually all come out, but it’s not until most of the damage is already done.  We also see that twice Everett is asked if his insistance on proposing to Meredith has to do with Sybil’s condition and everyone seems to doubt that he really loves her anyway.  How often do we rush into something trying to beat some sort of clock?  Maybe it’s the fear of death, maybe it’s sibling rivalry, but we’ve all got to sit back and let a certain divine clock be the only clock we want to keep in time with.

3.  Anger isn’t worth hanging on to.  Amy Stone (McAdams) seems to be so angry and defensive, as does Sybil.  Sybil’s feelings seem justified and Amy’s may be too…  but it doesn’t help anything.  All it managed to do is lay out a minefield even the nicest person would have difficulties navigating.  Believe me, Meredith finds each and every one of them!  Carrying around that anger didn’t make them happier, or even give them any satisfaction.  But, once they put the anger aside, everything goes MUCH smoother.

4. Sometimes we need to put up with people we don’t care for, for the ones we love.  When Everett tells his family off just before taking Meredith to a nearby inn, he tells them just that…  No matter what they think of her, they should be respectful because she is the woman he loves.  The same goes for everyone really.  We should love others because God loves them – and out of love for Him, we love and respect our fellow man.  Simple on the surface, but definitely harder in practice!

5.  There’s a hole in your heart.  Julie tells a story about a guy in Alaska that carved an amazing totem pole, he felt called to do it, saying that he felt like he had a hole in heart something he needed to do to be able to sleep at night.  It’s a minor part of the film, but its sort of the thing that brings her and Everett together.  Earlier in the film we see that when Everett and Meredith met, Everett was trying to get out to a monastary with the largest metal Budda statue.  He feels like he needs to do this – but Meredith seems to think it’s silly.  How often do you feel called to do something?  Do you feel like you have a hole in your heart that needs to be filled, something so important to you that it keeps you awake at night?  Do others “get” what you are trying to do? Why you feel like you need to do it?

I will say that every time I’ve seen The Family Stone, I’ve noticed a different detail of it.  It was one of those movies that I didn’t care for the first time I watched it (most likely due to the over the top liberal Stone family compounded by the fact that I just don’t care for Sarah Jessica Parker), but for some reason, I was still drawn to see it again – and at this point I’ve watched it many times…  The romantic in me likes it that we see how the re-arrangement of the couples and finding someone for all the singles makes for a much more pleasant dynamic.  Maybe there’s something to be said for how those around us affect our behavior.  Or maybe it’s just that everything worked out the way it was supposed to, regardless of the arguing, bantor and sheer bull-headedness!

For more information check out:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0356680/