Tonight I saw The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, starring Edward Burns and Anita Gillette.
Jerry (Burns) wants his siblings to gather and celebrate his mother's birthday a few days before Christmas but they all have other commitments, so plan B is to reunite the whole family—including their estranged patriarch—for Christmas dinner.
The youngest of the bunch want nothing to do with their father, still holding onto anger from his abandonment years ago; the older children are more sympathetic, but vow to leave the final decision up to their mother (Gillette).
In the midst of all of the shuffling, one sister is dealing with an abusive husband, while another brother is hoping to propose marriage to the younger girlfriend he "likes a lot." Oh, and Dad announces that he has cancer.
What I love about Edward Burns' films (he wrote and directed this one as well) is that there are always a lot of moving parts, and plenty of characters who we may or may not really get to know. Why do I love this? Because it's just like life.
Every breathing soul in our world is not necessarily someone we know, but somehow in some way, they may have a lot to do with our life. And who lives a life free of drama? None of us. So it's nice to see that dysfunctional existence brought to the surface on screen.
Everyone here feels as if they have an actual beating heart, and everyone here is someone we may like. Or not. None of the members of this family are perfect (though Jerry probably comes the closest), but all of them have redeeming qualities. The beauty is that though conceptually the family is very stereotypical (Irish, Catholic, etc.), the characters are so well fleshed-out, they're anything but one-dimensional.
Location is less of a character compared to past films such as Sidewalks of New York and Purple Violets, but the cozy interiors tell enough of a story to satisfy a sense of place.
My only real criticism of this story would lie in the underuse of Connie Britton who plays nurse Nora. She's an endearing break from the core family drama, and sparks impressive chemistry with Burns. I wish she'd had more of a prominent spot later in the film, but perhaps she's being saved for the sequel?
I suppose time will tell, but until then, I'll wonder about who will be seated at next year's Fitzgerald Christmas dinner.