Comedy from the producer of 'Sideways' (2005), this is a story about an annual holiday gathering of an unconventional New England family. Before the holidays are done, relationships will unravel while new ones are formed, secrets will be revealed and the Stone family will come together through its extraordinary capacity for love.
Because I'm writing this with someone who has not seen it in mind, I will be deliberately vague: I enjoyed the delicateness of the script and acting in certain aspects pertaining to the mother, and that story line definitely added a poignancy to the experience of watching it; the family interaction between characters (I personally really enjoy films that involve and show closeness of characters that is more/different than just romantic love or 'x is interested in having sex with y', which this film definitely does) and how the writers did not forget that the deaf characters would need to be told when people of note arrive, say, and that this would be habitual for the family members; how the characters' interactions were handled. The humour is not (unlike what another review said) based around making fun of Meredith, but it is based around the mishaps that happen from her being thrown into the mix, one of the characters does make fun of her during the film, but where this is done is not where it is 'funny'.
That I enjoy it, and have watched it a few times now, despite the slightly weird (in an unbelievable and somewhat undesirable sense) and fast turn around of certain character interactions, is a testament to how well handled (script, acting, production,...) the film is. In that sense, it is more intelligent than something that would be labelled as a 'rom-com flick' by some. The sheer number of characters packed in probably do add more texture than one might normally see in some rom-com-drama type things.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It seemed to be your typical light hearted, nondescript comedy but actually delivered a lot more. This follows a family at Christmas as they get to know the fiance `to be' (called Meredith) of one of the sons, even though she is stuck up and ultra conservative and they are a relaxed and liberal household. She eventually ropes her sister (played by Claire Danes) in as emotional support against the sniping of the family but her more relaxed air endears her to them much more than Meredith ever will. Parker plays the uptight fiance perfectly and the warmth and closeness from the rest of the family are what make this film better than average. Diane Keeton is excellent as the mother and Luke Wilson is good as one of the free spirit brothers. This isn't especially groundbreaking or a truly outstanding film, but it achieves what it sets out to very well and offers up an amusing and reasonably heart warming film for those times when you don't want to be overly challenged or to think too hard.
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