Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Family "Stoned"

This 2005 film, recently released on DVD for the viewing pleasure of probably no one, is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Here's why: in a nutshell, the screenplay stinks. Not to mention that fact that even Diane Keaton, who is one of my favorite actresses, cannot save this movie, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who is irritating but at least likeable in "Sex in the City," is just plain irritating here. She has to do a lot more in this movie then take her hair down out of that terrible bun, as she does in the last scene, to make us even care about her in the slightest, and the fact is, we don't! The premise is that Meredith Morton (played by Parker) is an uptight corporate executive who returns home to the family of her boyfriend, Everett (Dermott Mulroney) for Christmas. He is apparently planning to pop the question during the course of the stay, and begs Mom Stone (Diane Keaton) for the family ring to bestow upon Meredith, who grudgingly abides even though she, along with everyone else, including family members Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, and Craig T. Nelson, all hate Meredith and rightly so. Meredith is cold and rude, rearranges the family sleeping arrangements, and when she gets nervous, decides to insult the Stones' gay (and deaf) son and his black lover at the dinner table and grills their plan to adopt a child. (Notice all the underrepresented populations are effectively covered in one swoop. )

"Is it the nature over nurture argument going on here?" Parker stupidly blunders at the dinner table, degenerating to an even worse foot in mouth monologue... "wouldn't you have liked your son to be NORMAL?"... to the point where she collapses in tears of shame and hides in the car outside, exactly where she belongs. Luke Wilson, who plays Everett's brother, for some reason we cannot fathom but maybe because it's New England on Christmas Eve and there's nothing else to do, takes her to the local bar, where she gets drunk, plays the juke box, and loosens up to seventies songs that she had forgotten about like "Get Right Back to Where We Started From," (yuck). Are we supposed to believe no one has ever taken this woman to a bar before? Somewhere in the middle of all this, she spends the night with Wilson and they end up - could it be- falling in love? Ironically, this isn't so hard to believe since it was completely implausible that she and Everett were meant to be to begin with. In an even stupider plot twist, Clare Danes as Meredith's sister, with freshly dyed blond hair and lots of quilted clothing, mysteriously appears on a bus in the middle of Christmas to join this family mess, (OK, Meredith invited her, but why?) and in a search for Meredith post dinner table departure, ends up having a deep discussion with Everett in the snow, and low and behold, they fall in love! Maybe he likes her annoying knitted hat, or finds it endearing that she falls off the front stairs of the bus like an idiot the moment they meet. My question is: where are Meredith and Dane's parents in all this? I mean, it's Christmas after all, and members of their family keep leaving! In an even more absurd twist, Diane Keaton is ill and doesn't have long to live, (the tell tale scar on above her breast in a bedroom scene is suppose to divulge the clue) and apparently has told some of her family (the ones who break down watching Christmas videos), but not others, and it's not clear who knows and who doesn't. This is meant to add a Walton-esque feel to the whole thing, but it backfires and just plays as a cheap sympathy shot.

In the end, everything seems to work out the way it was meant to in movieland, with Meredith (sufficiently loosened up) ending up with Luke Wilson, Everett and Danes living happily ever after (with apparently no sisterly resentment over Everett to speak of), and unfortunately Mom never making it to Christmas future. This mess of a movie is entirely contrived and desperate, and it's unfortunate that the writer couldn't do something more interesting with such a talented cast stuck inside for a few days during the holidays. The DVD features 6 deleted scenes. I suggest deleting them all and pretending this movie never existed.

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