January 04, 2006

The Family Stone

By Hilary Rowe *

This holiday film tells the story of a family with five children reuniting for Christmas.  The oldest son, played predictably by Dermot Mulroney, brings home his uptight workaholic girlfriend, Sarah Jessica Parker, who fails to fit in in this household where practically anything goes.  The cast also includes Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, and Rachel McAdams.


I expected this film to be a simple family comedy, and so I was surprised, pleasantly in fact, that it addressed some serious issues, particularly regarding the mother's illness.  Overall, however, The Family Stone seems to me full of contradictions.


One of the film's primary messages is that acceptance, often the acceptance of questionable behavior, is the fundamental good within the family.  This message is benevolent at best, if inaccurate, but it is completely contradicted when members of the family treat one another with malice and spite.  The couples that form within the film bring out the best in one another, but these relationships all originate unconvincingly in a single night, as a result of deceit and irresponsible behavior. 


The morally troubling element of the film is its implicit approval of drug use, drunkenness, casual sex, and homosexuality.  The film would still be worth seeing if its promotion of loving relationships lived up to its promises, but as it is The Family Stone paints a picture of marriage and family life that is unrealistic and unappealing.

Hilary Rowe received her B.A. in Film Studies and English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005.  Since then she has worked in campus ministry for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.  She currently serves as FOCUS Team Director at the University of Colorado.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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