On paper, this should be a movie that I absolutely hated. Another treacly family dramedy about an Irish Catholic family that has come undone at the seams and just needs a little yuletide cheering to rediscover the love that was always there? Sounds like a resounding YAWN, right?
Well, you’d be wrong, because this movie really (dare I say ‘miraculously’?) works as an interesting family narrative that rejoices in dysfunction while kind of/sort of sanctifying it at the same time (yes, your dear critic thinks there is nothing wrong with dysfunctional families since they seem to be the only kind that exists – and will ever exist). We have in The Fitzgerald Family Christmas a story about a large group of adult siblings with lives as complex and scattered as can be imagined (one’s a hothead, one’s a lesbian, one’s a philanderer, etc.) who get together for Christmas only to tell the others how much they suck and how they have let down their dear mother and the rest of the ever-quarreling brood.
Gerry (played by Burns) is his mother Rosie’s favorite. His father, Jim, had walked out on his wife and seven children twenty years ago. At the time, Rosie swore that Jim would never set foot in her house again. She has, however, come to learn that the man who abandoned her and her children is now a broken shadow of a man, penniless and dying of cancer. The kids decide that they’d rather spend what is likely to be his last Christmas with Jim: he is, after all, their father (neglectful bastard though he may be). Rosie, however, is resolute in her opposition. She swore he would never return to her house and she isn’t backing down.
This isn’t a “great” or :tragic” family drama in the sense that The Godfather or historical legends like Oedipus are, but it is eminently relatable and well-written and acted. Special mention should go to Ed Burns for not only starring in and writing the feature, but for directing it. He is definitely one of Hollywood’s most underutilized talents and (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) knows what he is doing. Definitely check this one out if you get the chance.