"Knight Thoughts" -- exclusive web content
With Family Like This, Who Needs Friends?
The Family Stone
12-30-05 "Knight Thoughts" web exclusive
by Richard Knight, Jr.
The movie poster and gay writer-director Thomas Bezucha on set with star Diane Keaton shooting
the empowering dinner scene
Out writer-director Thomas Bezucha’s first film Big Eden is my all time favorite “gay” movie. If you haven’t seen it and have any
sense of romantic spirit at all, rent or buy the DVD and give it your attention. After seeing it during its all too brief theatrical run in
2000 I was amazed to learn that it was Bezucha’s first script and not only his first feature but his first time directing a movie.
Period. So assured and carefully crafted was its tone, its casting (and performances), not to mention the richly layered script, I
felt that it had to be the work of an experienced filmmaker.
But Bezucha, based on the evidence of his sophomore effort, The Family Stone, is no one trick pony. Again, his writing is
sharp and fresh, his casting impeccable and the performances from his actors wonderful to watch. All the more remarkable
because the plot of the film is such a moldy staple of the romantic comedy genre that it reads like the road map of a thousand
movies that have come before it: A young man takes home his uptight, soon to be fiancée for Christmas to meet his wacky
family that naturally disapproves of the young woman. Complications ensue on the road to love and before you can say “Alls Well
That Ends Well” two sets of mismatched lovers have sorted each other out and figured out their respective destinies are sleeping
just down the hall – or at the nearest cozy bed and breakfast.
While Bezucha doesn’t do much with this shop worn plot, his subplots add nuance to the proceedings. So, it’s par for the plot
when Everett (the ever-dreamy Dermot Mulrooney who first set many a gay man’s heart aflame in Longtime Companion) brings
home uptight Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) and she doesn’t want to give the dad (Craig T. Nelson) and the mom (Diane
Keaton) big bear hugs. It’s not surprising that the outspoken, rude sister (Rachel McAdams) makes fun of her. But the addition
of the deaf gay son (Tyrone Giordano) and his African-American lover (Brian White) is certainly refreshing in a mainstream studio
comedy. Then, when Meredith hesitantly suggests that no parent would want to have a gay child and she’s immediately staunchly
defended by Nelson and especially Keaton, it’s like a cultural shift has taken place. Clearly Meredith is not a bigot (in trying to
be supportive she’s put her Manolo Blahnik in her mouth) but in Bezucha’s world, this anti-gay/anti-love crap isn’t about to be
tolerated in any form. What better Christmas present than to have Diane Keaton fill in for so many mothers of GLBT children (of
all ages) and mouth words like these?
There are other nuances that I liked very much – the obvious sexual attraction between the older generation, Keaton and Nelson,
the fact that the lovers aren’t 22 to begin with, the revelation of a hidden, serious illness that deepens the film. There is also a
beautiful montage in which the eldest daughter watches Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet
Me in St. Louis on television during which we check in with all the other characters, all safe and asleep, dreaming their holiday
dreams. This may be the first holiday movie that includes the tradition of watching holiday movies – a tradition for so many
families that it’s amazing someone hasn’t put it on screen before. To see it finally done in such a simple way, within such a
lovable, human family makes The Family Stone, whatever its other flaws, a must see.