The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Edward Burns is one of my favorite actors, that he is as equally talented behind the camera is just a testament to the auteur spirit he possesses. Nearly two decade after bursting onto the indie scene with his irish family drama-comedy The Brothers McMullen, and the vastly overlooked She’s the One, Burns has finally recaptured the tone of those early projects and has delivered a film worthy of adding to the short list. Staying within his comfort zone as a storyteller, the New York based filmmaker once again sets his tale of estranged immediate family in the Empire State. In typical east-coast fashion, this is a christmas tale with an attitude.

Gerry Fitzgerald (Edward Burns) is the family patriarch, he is one of six siblings, each grown adults with busy lives and varying degrees of interest in keeping the family ties strong. It’s two days before Christmas and Gerry is in the final stages of organizing a family get together to celebrate their mother’s seventieth birthday. One by one and for different reasons, some valid, each child bails on the party. Leaving Rosie Fitzgerald (Anita Gillette) hurt and Gerry furious at his ungrateful brother and five sisters. Rosie brushes off the canceled party and rationalizes that all the family will still be together on Christmas Day as per tradition. Though this year will be a lot different from the past.

Straddled with a tough predicament, Gerry looks to confer with his broad about the reappearance of their father (Ed Lauter), who walked out on the family twenty years earlier. Dad is dying of pancreatic cancer and his wishes are to spend his last christmas with his large family. This of course leads to a lot of discussions and bickering between the grown children, and sides are drawn in the battle.

Burns’ script deftly handles over a dozen different characters, and he doesn’t short change any. Each sibling has a back story and current problems, indirectly related to the emotional scars left by their abandonment. Clichés are acknowledge but avoided for the majority, and the winning performances most notably from Anita Gillette as the doting and fiercely loyal mother Rosie Fitzgerald, help propel this touching Christmas movie into the top of Edward Burns’ work. The final scene and shot is a tear-jerker and well-deserved.

Director: Edward Burns
Stars: Edward Burns, Kerry Bishé, Connie Britton

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