New Release: The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (VOD)
Just in time for the holidays, Edward Burns is giving us a return to the Irish-American family at Christmas. I got to see this at TIFF, with a question and answer period with the director, Mr. Burns. That's how I even knew to look for this On-Demand or for rent on itunes. Burns said that the budget that goes into marketing a film for wide release can kill the ability to make these really small budget films, so he's been going the digital route for a few films now (Newlyweds). The nice thing is that he's been in the business long enough that he can call on friends and put together a pretty convincing cast from all his films, spin a story, and poof - a solid, creative, funny, relate-able, holiday flick.
Gerry Fitzgerald (Burns) owns a bar in a little town outside New York City. He has lots of grown up brothers and sisters, all raised by his mom, Rosie, (Anita Gillette) after Big Jim (Ed Lauter) left them. The kids range in age such that the youngest two have no memory of Dad being dad. The older ones, including Gerry have fond memories of their father. So when he asks to spend Christmas with the whole family one last time, after 20 years with a new family, there is discord in the family, particularly with the youngest and Rosie. We get to see glimpses into each child's life, just enough that you feel you actually could be part of such a big family. As a member of a large Irish-Catholic family, keeping up with all the gossip and discussion made me feel right at home. If that isn't your upbringing (or you feel family members should mind their own business), this might be a bit gossipy for you. But I'm sure you'd still find something in these characters to relate to by the end. And if all you want is a holiday love story, that's there too when Gerry meets Nora (Connie Britton) working for a neighbor.
There were a lot of tiny things I really liked about this movie - the small touches like overly decorated houses with every Christmas knick-knack/towel/garland/etc. you can imagine. The tight corners and spaces of the houses really showed the family dynamic - constantly being on top of each other can bring a family pretty close. And as a movie geek it amazed me how they could possibly get the angles to shoot. The movie falls into the previously voted sweet spot for length (99 minutes) and there's nothing wasted. The Christmas carols used as the soundtrack are really well done and give the movie character. Unlike a lot of movies that contain Christmas, this one is really based on family holidays and figuring out how to celebrate when life is more complicated than that. The family dynamic is really well done, the sisters band together, there are things you're always learning about each other in a big family, and there's always ONE person who annoys everybody (Gerry) and another who does whatever he wants, (Quinn - Michael McGlone), and the babies who must be pampered to a fault (Cyril - Tom Guiry).