Susan Granger’s review of “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas” (Tribeca Film)
In this dysfunctional family celebration, writer/director/actor Edward Burns returns to his working-class, Irish-American roots, reuniting with several cast members from “The Brothers McMullen” (1995).
As the story begins in suburban Queens, New York, Gerry (Burns), the oldest, tries to corral his various, self-centered siblings to celebrate their mother’s 70th birthday, which occurs two days before Christmas. One-by-one, they beg off, each with a different excuse. Sarcastic Sharon (Kelly Bische) would rather join her wealthy, much older boyfriend (Noah Emmerich) at his Long Island beach house, where they’re joined by her hot-tempered brother Quinn (Michael McGlone), who’s about to propose to his much younger girlfriend (Daniella Pineda). Combative Dottie (Marsha Dietlein Bennett) has recently separated from her husband (Brian D’Arcy James) and is having a torrid affair with her hunky young gardener (John Solo). Erin (Heather Burns), who has a Jewish husband (Nick Sandow), is conflicted about her mother’s fervent desire to have their baby boy secretly baptized. Cyril (Thomas Guiry) is just out of rehab. And when vulnerable Connie (Caitlin Fitzgerald) discovers she’s unexpectedly pregnant, she’s abused by her out-of-work husband (Dara Coleman), which arouses the ire of Sharon and Quinn, who rush from the beach to her rescue. To complicate matters further, stressed-out Gerry becomes infatuated with compassionate Nora (Connie Britton), who serves as caregiver to a longtime family friend (Joyce Van Patten).
Meanwhile, the matriarch, Josie (Antia Gillette), faces another dilemma: her wayward husband, Jim (Ed Lauter), who left her to raise their seven children alone more than 20 years earlier, wants to come home for the Yuletide dinner. Still bitter about his abandonment, Rosie has vowed never to allow him to set foot in her house again – until she discovers he’s dying of pancreatic cancer.
While Burns devises quirky characters delivering biting dialogue that’s full of zingers, the cliché-driven plot is not only predictable but utterly formulaic – only saved from mediocrity by the solid acting ensemble.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas” is a sibling-squabbling 6, delivering diluted holiday cheer.