Groans For The Holidays

Columbus Alive | December 15, 2005
The best thing that can be said about writer/ director Thomas Bezucha's holiday dysfunction film—and one of the few good things you could say about it—is that it's a remarkable example of the manipulative power of cinema. If you're compelled to participate in the emotional calisthenics he's put on film, you'll be guffawing one minute and reaching for a tissue the next, and at the end you'll be exhausted—which starts with the same letter as "entertained," but it's not nearly the same thing.

Its other big selling point is a great cast, and, beyond some minor charms, I can't for the life of me figure out how it became attached to this script. Dermot Mulroney is Everett Stone, a successful professional bringing his tightly wound girlfriend Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet his family for the holidays.

Meredith feels immediately uncomfortable with the onslaught of mother Sybil (Diane Keaton), father Kelly (Craig T. Nelson), hostile sister Amy (Rachel MacAdams) and deaf, gay brother Thad (Tyrone Giordano) and his African-American life partner Patrick (Brian White).

Despite their appearance of liberal tolerance and diversity, the family hates Meredith and immediately sets about trying to convince Everett to scratch his plans to ask her to marry him, except for actually tolerant stoner brother Ben (Luke Wilson). Meredith's call for reinforcement in the form of her sister Julie (Claire Danes) adds an all-too convenient twist to the movie's romantic angle.

A few smart zingers fly in the process, and Nelson and Keaton bring a few moments of tenderness in a bedroom scene, but it stems from a maudlin, unnecessary subplot. Otherwise, the film is weirdly all over the place, lurching back and forth from intense drama to slapstick comedy.

Try as they might, the large, capable cast can't lend the film stability. It's too bent on the task of wringing every color in the emotional spectrum from the viewer. That's what the holidays with your real family are for.

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 62 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215
  • Phone: (614) 221-2449