The Fitzgerald Family Christmas
Director: Edward Burns.
Screenplay: Edward Burns.
Starring: Edward Burns, Connie Britton, Michael McGlone, Kerry Bishé, Heather Burns, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Marsha Dietlein, Dara Coleman, Anita Gillette, Ed Lauter, Joyce Van Patten, Tom Guiry, Noah Emmerich.
“I had no intention of breaking this family up”
In 1995 a young Edward Burns came onto the film scene with independent, family drama The Brothers McMullen and followed it up with equally impressive films like She’s The One and Sidewalks of New York. Not everyone took notice but those that did began to compare Burns’ writing and directing style to that of fellow New Yorker Woody Allen (without the neurosis). However, after his crime drama Ash Wednesday in 2002 people seemed to stop taking notice and Burns’ directorial efforts disappeared from the limelight. He was still making films and even though I was a big admirer of his earlier stuff, even I had forgotten all about his more personal projects… until this one landed in my lap.
The Fitzgerald’s are a big Irish-American family that have no shortage of problems. There are seven siblings who all look out for one another but when their estranged father wants to return home for Christmas after walking out 20 years ago, the siblings (and their mother) all have to work through their feelings and resentment towards him.Those going into this expecting a happy family Yuletide event will not entirely get what they signed up for. As far as Christmas films go this one isn’t filled with much cheer. In fact, the only reason it seems to be set around Christmas time is solely to stage an event where all the characters are forced to come together. It’s a dysfunctional family drama that, once again, showcases Burns’ astute eye and ear for natural characters and dialogue. With a plethora of different personalities onscreen, Burns makes it look effortless as he affords everyone the time and space to grow and develop their roles and crafts a sensitively handled ensemble piece.
In his impressive handling of the narrative strands and personal problems of his characters, Burns never forces anything. He lets the flawed individuals speak for themselves and he’s aided by a solid cast that bring just the right amount of humour and heartbreak to proceedings without ever resorting to sentimentality.
Family dynamics has been the forte of Edward Burns’ writing over the years and it would seem that he still has plenty to say on the matter. This may not be as solid as his debut but it’s a perceptive piece nonetheless and Burns’ continual independent filmmaking is deserving of a bigger audience.Like I say, it’s not the holiday cheer you might expect but also not a depressant either. It finds itself neatly under the mistletoe with a welcome embrace and a reminder that forgiveness can make a huge difference.Mark Walker
Trivia: In the movie Ed Lauter’s character says it will be his last Christmas. The movie was released in December of 2012. Ed Lauter passed away in October of 2013.