Thursday, December 06, 2012

Fitzgerald Family Christmas: Long Island Cheer

Where are the Griswolds when you need them?  It is the season for sentimentality and Edward Burns intends to indulge.  He returns to Long Island for a big Irish family get together in The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Their mother’s birthday is two days before Christmas, but aside from Gerry, her favorite, none of the grown Fitzgerald children want to come home to celebrate.  Grown might be too strong a word.  Let’s say they are over twenty-one.  Gerry is the professional martyr who still lives at home.  He has four sisters whose names are impossible to keep straight.  It is easier to just number them in accordance with how annoying they are, number four being the most insufferable.  He also has two brothers, one of whom would have been forgotten were it not for a handy set of press notes.

There is still a Fitzgerald father out there, but he is dead to Rosie Fitzgerald after he walked out on her when the brood was still quite young.  Unfortunately, Jim Fitzgerald will be dead to everyone soon.  His final wish is to spend his last Christmas with the family.  Gerry tries pleading his case, but his mother and assorted siblings remain steadfastly opposed. 

Various other family dramas crop up, including Sister #1’s pregnancy with her abusive husband.  Brother Quinn and Sister #4 are pursuing significantly younger and older romantic partners, respectively, while Sister #3 sent her husband packing in favor of their landscaper.  Sister #2 actually has a presentable husband and young baby, but she is still absolutely miserable to be around.  Meanwhile, completely forgettable Brother Cyril just got out of rehab.  Right, good luck with that.

Christmas with the Fitzgeralds will make viewers convert to Buddhism.  The only appealing scenes involve Brother Gerry’s awkward courtship of Nora Daugherty, the nurse of a longtime family friend.  It is nice to see realistically flawed, everyday looking (slightly worn even) people develop a down-to-earth relationship.  Reuniting from The Brothers McMullen, Burns and Connie Britton display real romantic chemistry together.  He helms these sequences with a sensitive touch the rest of the middling family chaos lacks.

Granted, it should also be noted Ed Lauter might just give a career performance as the remorseful absentee father.  In fact, there are several very nice supporting turns peppered throughout this overstuffed holiday feast of subplots, each of which is neatly resolved, lest they spoil the turkey.  While not an outright affront to cinema, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is unlikely to become anyone’s holiday tradition.  More liable to test viewers’ patience, it opens tomorrow (12/7) in New York at the Village East.