Holiday movies should, as a rule, be excluded from consideration. They’re like kids movies, or Wayans Brothers movies. No matter how bad they are, the motivations behind making them are plain. No one’s out to win any Oscars here. And they bring lots of enjoyment to the people who love them. But, at the same time, it’s nice to have holiday themed things, even a holiday-themed Worst Movies of All Time blog post. And besides, this week’s movie, The Family Stone, is basically Dan in Real Life: Christmas, so we’re already halfway there. Seriously, I could replace half the nouns in my Dan in Real Life write up with “Christmas” and be done. Then it would be egg nog time! Oh well. Since my Christmas present to you is actually sitting through this entire thing (you’re welcome, btw, it was either this or making a donation to NAMBLA in your name), I might as well go the extra step. You know what they say, it’s the blog post that counts. Won’t you come ride in a one-note open blog post with me? Old Blog Syne! Ugh.
Dermot Mulroney brings his girlfriend Sarah Jessica Parker home to meet his CRAZY family. They are so crazy. Just to give you an example of how crazy his family is, one of them is gay! And also deaf! That’s nuts! Everyone hates Sarah Jessica Parker because she is a business woman, and if there’s one thing that close knit families who wear homemade sweaters and have surprisingly rigid traditions hate it’s SQUARES. So Sarah Jessica Parker decides to check into a bed and breakfast because she can’t take her boyfriend’s family, and that’s something someone in a couple does, is go to a bed and breakfast during Christmas because you’re grumpy. Meanwhile, Dermot Mulroney is going to propose to Sarah Jessica Parker despite the fact that he quite visibly hates her, and everyone in the family tells him that he’s making a mistake to try and marry her. But they don’t think it’s a mistake because of how his lack of love for her will lead to a disastrous marriage, which is why it’s a mistake, they just think it’s a mistake because they all hate her for their own weird, selfish, anti-authoritarian, NPR-tote-bag reasons. All of them except Dermot Mulroney’s brother Luke Wilson, who is in love with her. Huh. So Sarah Jessica Parker’s sister Claire Danes shows up, and she’s not a business woman, so the family loves her, and also Dermot Mulroney loves her, and to make a long story short, Dermot Mulroney and Sarah Jessica Parker leave each other for their respective siblings, and then Diane Keaton dies of cancer. Christmas!
I’ll be up front: I’m not sure that I’m ready to cede Worst Genre of All Time to Films About Eccentric Families. I just think that ultimately the Mentally Retarded Renews A Jaded Businessman’s Sense of Wonder genre is a little worse. But this is a close second. A very, very close second.
Now, let us be clear, the Stone family cannot logically exist. That is the most infuriating thing about this movie, because when the fundamental core of your entire narrative is fundamentally flawed, nothing else works. I come from the type of close-knit, liberally minded family that movies like this are supposed to be about, and I can tell you that my family makes more narrative sense than this one. For one thing, a close-knit, liberally minded family might be guardedly at odds with a no-nonsense business woman, but openly hostile? Everyone in this family is a fucking asshole to Sarah Jessica Parker, and then acts like she’s the weird one for deciding not to put up with it. Because they’re such a crazy family! So odd! It’s tough for outsiders to understand! No, it’s not tough. Your family sucks.
Let’s talk about this:
Um, Sarah Jessica Parker is right. I mean, the nature vs. nurture thing is a bait but the switch is that there is no such thing as a mother who wishes all her kids were gay. What is that? Fuck you, everyone involved with this. We do live in an intolerant society where being gay can be a tremendous burden. That doesn’t mean that families shouldn’t love and nurture everyone in the family equally, gay or straight, but thank you Sarah Jessica Parker’s retarded character for having the fake balls to point out that Diane Keaton’s retarded character is even more retarded. Nuts. Not to mention the fact that Diane Keaton’s insistence that the environment couldn’t have turned her son gay because she had ugly drapes is insanely homophobic. This scene makes me so angry. And SERIOUSLY, DEAF, GAY GUY WITH A BLACK BOYFRIEND? (Because you can never be too idiosyncratic when it comes to being a cipher movie character inserted for the specific purpose of being the foundation for so many condescending political points.) You’re so insecure with the contented, successful life that you’ve built up for yourself by overcoming the hurtle of an extreme disability, and the inevitable day-to-day bigotry that anyone in a a bi-racial homosexual relationship confronts, that you freak out the first time some stupid woman you’ve never even met before offers a totally legitimate interpretation of events and need your mommy to remind you she loves you? I’m sorry, but stop being a faggot.
But every moment of the movie is basically like that. You’re either being hit over the head with some MEANING, or some SUBTEXT is being slipped into your egg nog. The worst. And as thrilled as I’m sure the casting agent was with his or herself for putting together this all-star line-up, and all of these actors are very talented, but I’m sorry, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, and Rachel McAdams aren’t all siblings from the parents of Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson. Same goes for the “sisters” Sarah Jessica Parker and Claire Danes. Just because you can get a famous actor to sign on for your family dramedy doesn’t mean that it makes any sense to do so. Unbelievable.
AND WAIT, GOING BACK TO THAT GAY COUPLE FOR A SECOND, for a movie that is so bold in its defense of “gay rights,” or “whatever,” and so open in its “real” sexuality that it features a masectomy-sex scene:
How come the two gay guys never kiss? There’s a lot of hugging and knowing smiles at each other, you know, the kind of gay romance that makes straight people feel proud of themselves for not throwing up, but actually they’re completely sexless. Real Talk. Real Bullshit.
This movie’s love triangle is particularly complicated. You’re going to tell me that there are four people who all think that it’s totally legitimate to fuck your siblings’ significant other on Christmas? That’s a thing? Then there’s the traditional romantic comedy failure of giving anyone any reason for liking each other. Sarah Jessica Parker’s prudish business woman with a chronic case of frigidity leaves her almost-fiance because she falls in love with his ne’er do well pot-addicted brother, Luke Wilson? OK, but why? No, I know that it’s a convenient plot device, but why? Similarly, Dermot Mulroney’s equally buttoned-down, at-odds-with-his-family business man with a chronic inability to not seem to hate everyone falls in love with Clare Danes at first sight? OK, but what grounds their relationship to make it last? What’s that? Are you there? Hello? And of course the movie makes no attempt at explaining why everyone hates Sarah Jessica Parker when she’s Dermot Mulroney’s girlfriend, but she is instantly welcomed and beloved when she’s Luke Wilson’s? What? WHAT?
Then there’s the fact that this movie is just plain stupid. Your Christmas present is that I’m going to stop talking about it and allow us to all move on with our lives. You are welcome. Merry Christmas.