Friday, September 10, 2010

Oxy Cinemathèque 2010 begins Monday with THE FAMILY STONE

Cinemathèque Screening: The Family Stone (Dir. Thomas Bezucha, 2005)

September 13, 2010

Johnson 200

7 p.m.

Introduction by Sonia Lessuck (’11)

The Family Stone: Storytelling in the Home

Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, The Family Stone (2005) tells the story of a New England family, as everyone returns home for a Christmas weekend. This Christmas, however, is no ordinary one. This year, the golden boy son of the Stone family, Everett, is bringing home the newest woman in his life. He is even, to the dismay of his family, expected to ask his mother for her mother’s engagement ring – the family stone. His new romance is not the only news for the family, we soon find out. As each member of the family comes home and moves back into his/her childhood home, secrets, conflicts, and family history begin to rise to the surface in intimate and comedic moments. Through storytelling, Bezucha creates this family’s unique narrative structure within his film.

In The Family Stone, the primary reveal is that Diane Keaton's character, Sybil Stone, mother of the family, finds out she is re-diagnosed with breast cancer. Early in the film we see Sybil alone in her house; it is clear that something is on her mind, but exactly what, is unknown. As Sybil’s entire family comes home, her five children with their respective families--children, spouses, fiancés--we see her light up. She and her home play host to everyone, and it is through storytelling that we slowly learn more about this family's history. We are let in on whom each person was before the moment we have met them and we learn how their histories differ from the people they presently are.

What strikes me most about The Family Stone is, although a film about a family in a home together, there are only three scenes when everyone is gathered in one space together. These scenes are ripe with tension and lack the intimacy of scenes around two family members inhabiting a single space together. Perhaps the climax of the film and highest point of tensions is a scene around the dinner table. For most of the film, the Stone family has struggled, unsuccessfully, to be civil with Meredith, Everett’s uptight fiancé. Once everyone is gathered around a central location together, with the feeling of seemingly not being able to leave, niceties are soon forgotten. The scene comes to a head when Meredith has a loud and forceful exchange with Sybil and her husband, Kelly. All of a sudden, Meredith breaks the cinematic rules of a dinner table scene and leaves. This breaks the tension and creates a moment of reflection for the Stone family.

I have drawn great inspiration from this film for my own screenplay. Bezucha uses the many rooms of a family home to segregate his characters, giving characters moments alone with another, despite a crowded home. It is during these smaller moments that storytelling and divulgence of secrets occurs. When the whole family isn’t together, characters relax into moments of true intimacy.

Each of Sybil’s children finds out individually about her diagnosis. The space, in which they find out signifies something about their character and their relationship not only to Sybil, but also the family as a whole. It is this link between characters, storytelling, and space that interests me most.

--Sonia Lessuck (’11)

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