"The Stones, a New England family, have their annual holiday gathering. The eldest son brings his girlfriend home to meet his parents, brothers and sisters. The bohemian Stones greet their visitor--a high-powered, controlling New Yorker--with a mix of awkwardness, confusion and hostility. Before the holiday is over, relationships will unravel while new ones are formed, secrets will be revealed, and the family Stone will come together through its extraordinary capacity for love. "

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movie trailer (apple.com)

NOTE: This Spoiler was sent in by Lindsay L.

The movie opens with Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) on her cell phone in a store, and Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) buying a gift for his sister Amy.  He takes her phone and hangs it up.  They pause…opening credits roll with Christmas cards displaying various sketches of Christmasy looking scenes.  It zooms in on the Stone family home and mother Sybil Stone (Diane Keaton) sort of sadly staring out the window as her son Thad and his boyfriend/partner Patrick drive up in their Range Rover.  Thad and Patrick come into the house and Sybil gives Patrick a hug, sneaks up on Thad, who is hearing impaired.

Next to arrive at the house is sister Amy Stone (Rachel McAdams), who pulls up in her beat up Volvo, which matches Kelly (Craig T. Nelson) and Sybil Stone’s maroon Volvo wagon in the driveway.  She is dressed sort of haphazardly and her stuff falls out of her bag into the snow.  She is irritated.  A similar reunion takes place inside the house, where sister Susannah and her daughter Elizabeth are also there.  Brother Ben has not arrived, as he has missed the first two flights from San Francisco.

It is now that sister Amy begins to tell the family (dad Kelly, mom Sybil, sister Susannah, brother Thad, boyfriend Patrick) about her dinner out in New York with other brother Everett and his girlfriend, Meredith Morton.  She describes Meredith as awful, uptight, and describes how horrible she is.  Meanwhile, Everett and Meredith pull up in his Saab.  The family all watches them in the car through the window, where a visibly nervous Meredith is sharing her apprehension with Everett.  They are dressed very formally, whereas the rest of the family is looking very bohemian.

Dad Kelly goes outside to help them with their things, and Meredith has to duck out of the way as Kelly and Everett embrace.  The family inside snorts.  Meredith tries to shake Kelly’s hand, and he sort of awkwardly hugs her.  Inside they go, where everyone embraces Everett and Meredith is sort of in the middle of it all, again trying with the handshake of Sybil whom she says has a lovely home.  Meredith keeps shouting at Thad even though it’s not necessary.  Everyone else knows sign language.  Little Elizabeth remarks that Meredith has nice shoes.  Amy hardly acknowledges Meredith’s Merry Christmas.

Up to Everett’s bedroom, where Meredith refuses to share a bed with him in his parents’ home.   So Everett asks for her to have a different place to sleep, and she takes Amy’s room, who isn’t very happy and she and Sybil make that clear as Meredith moves her stuff in.  Meredith is aware of their displeasure, but isn’t getting a lot of help to rectify the situation.  Then her sister, Julie, calls, and Meredith tells her that they all hate her and that yes, she is being herself.  Ben shows up, where his mother informs him that there will be no pot in the house this year.

They go to get pizza and Meredith tells the endless and boring story of how they met before the fam settles in.  Later on they play charades.  Amy accuses Meredith of pointing at Patrick who is African American, to indicate the fourth word in her clue, The Bride Wore Black…basically calls her a racist.  Bedtime!  No one is happy.  Mom and dad discuss that Everett will be asking for the ring at some point and she’s doesn’t want to give it to him for Meredith.

The next day.  Meredith comes to the kitchen where Sybil is.  Apologies and awkward tension.  Then Amy comes in demanding coffee.  More awkward tension.  Sybil tells Amy that a local man is still in town and still likes her and shares with Meredith that Brad Stevenson “popped Amy’s cherry” which Amy doesn’t like.  Sybil leaves the room.  Meredith attempts to make small talk with Amy to no avail.  Finally Meredith loses it and asks her what it was that she ever did to her, to which Amy says nothing but smiles smugly.  Then Meredith announces to her that she doesn’t care if she likes her or not.  Amy says, oh, sure you do.

While the exchange takes place in the kitchen, Everett asks his mom for her mother’s wedding ring that she promised him awhile back when he was dating someone she liked better than Meredith.  Long story short, she doesn’t want that woman wearing her mother’s ring…so she says no.  The beginning of Everett being very angry.

Meredith decides to check into the local inn after the Amy incident, where her sister Julie (Claire Danes) will be joining her, forgoing Christmas with her own family. It is at this point where Everett loses his patience with his family.  He gathers the group together, and declares that their behavior will now change.  They can’t believe he’s serious, and when Amy tries to smart off again, he slams his fist down and shouts that they will pull their fangs out and be nice.  He then storms off after telling them that they better get used to Meredith because she’s important to him.  They are off to the inn, but not before Ben extends the olive branch in the form of coffee in Sybil’s favorite mug, and also telling Meredith that he had a dream about her last night.  He doesn’t get to tell her what the dream was.

After the inn, somehow Meredith is back at the house.  Susannah, who is very pregnant by the way, goes upstairs where Patrick has informed her that her mom is taking nap.  Her mom rolls over when Susannah gets in bed with her, and asks her who else knows.  Cut to Ben and Kelly at the local football field, getting stoned.  They are having pleasant conversation when Ben asks what’s up with mom, and Kelly acts like nothing is going on.  Ben insists that it’s obvious that she is sick, again, and finally Kelly admits that it’s true and that it’s not good.  Ben gets upset.  They go home.

Meanwhile, Thad and Everett are shopping in town.  For an engagement ring.  Thad tells Everett that he shouldn’t marry Meredith.  Everett can’t believe it.  Back at home, Meredith is bonding with Patrick.  They are making the Morton family Christmas morning breakfast item.  Everett and Thad are going to the bus stop to meet Julie.   Julie gets off the bus and Everett is enamored.  Julie then falls as she gets off the bus.  Back at the house, the family LOVES Julie.  Loves.  The greeting that you would expect Meredith to get. They are in the kitchen, where Ben walks in and hugs Sybil and is emotional, and Amy wants to know what’s wrong and they all pretend nothing is wrong. Everyone is asking Meredith why she put mushrooms in the breakfast item because Everett is allergic and she freaks out; everyone is also attending to Julie’s cut knee.  Meredith takes over and takes Julie upstairs to fix the cut, and is clearly aware that everyone likes Julie and hates her still.

Now it is dinner time.  Everyone is making pleasant conversation about Ben’s work and Julie’s work, when the conversation turns to Patrick and Thad’s attempt to adopt children.  Meredith asks them if they care about the race of their child, as Patrick is African American and Thad is white.  They don’t care what color it is, they are happy to be getting a kid.  Then talk turns to being gay, and Sybil remarks that she wishes all three of her sons were gay because then they would never leave her.  Meredith asks her point blank if she was serious about wanting all three of her boys to be gay, because why would you wish that on your children.  The tone of the conversation takes a troubling turn, when Meredith tries to understand why Sybil would wish for her kids to have a difficult life when it’s hard enough being “normal”  Clearly this takes the conversation on a downward spiral, when Everett doesn’t help her explain what she means, and Sybil yells at her followed by Kelly yelling more and Meredith running out to the Saab.  Before Julie can try and stick up for Meredith, Sybil shouts at Thad that he’s more normal than all the other assholes at the table.

Meanwhile, we hear Meredith unsuccessfully trying to leave the Stone family home, with the Saab hitting a shrub, then a tree.  Julie starts to go to help her, but Ben volunteers to head outside.  He gets to the car, and says to Meredith, well ma’am what seems to be the problem here.  She bursts into more sobs, and he tells her to move over and proceeds to take her to a bar.

Everett has lost his appetite.  Later, when he can’t reach Meredith, he decides to go and look for her.  Julie goes too.

Meredith and Ben are getting loaded at the local bar on Dos Equis.  Ben informs Meredith that she really needs to relax.  That deep down she is a freak, she just doesn’t let her flag fly.  She drinks some more beers.  She picks a song.  She sits back down.  She is getting drunk.

Julie and Everett are having a walk and talking about life.  Everett is clearly taken with Julie.  Meanwhile, back at the bar, in walks Brad Stevenson (Amy’s boy) and his ambulance driving partner Dave.  Meredith makes the Brad connection, and demands they join them for beers.   More Julie and Everett bonding…he is clearly unfulfilled and has lived the life he thought his family wanted him to live and be perfect and that has not entailed him living his life the way he has wanted to.

Now Meredith’s song comes on. She makes Brad dance with her and invites him to Christmas morning.  She is now disheveled and wasted, and says it would be really great if they could get some pot and does Ben know where they could get some.

Julie and Everett walk back to the inn, where there is no Meredith.  Everett invites Julie for a cup of coffee, but she tells him that she can’t do that, presumably because Meredith is her sister.

Meredith and Ben are now drunk and in the Saab outside where Ben tells Meredith that in the dream she was a little girl shoveling snow, and that he was the snow and she was scooping him up.

Back at the inn, Julie is in bed reading, and there is a knock at the door.  It’s not Everett but is Kelly wanting to apologize to Julie and to Meredith for what went down back at dinner.  Back at the house, Everett walks into the house, and Sybil apologizes.  He tells her that he doesn’t believe that she is sorry.  Kelly comes home and Sybil tells him that Everett is super pissed.  She tells him that she is scared…scared of a lot of things, but mostly that he’s getting married for the wrong reasons and she won’t be around for it anyways.  She slightly opens her blouse to reveal scares from a double mastectomy and Kelly kisses her.  Everett tries to call Meredith, she doesn’t answer because she is sleeping on Ben’s shoulder in the Saab.  Bedtime.

The morning after.  Susannah and Elizabeth want to open stockings.  Meredith wakes up, and realizes that she is in Ben’s bed and he is in the shower.  She freaks, and freaks some more when Kelly is knocking at the door to see when he came home since the Saab is back in the driveway.  He finally walks in, to find Meredith in Ben’s bed, and turns and walks out sort of shocked.

Downstairs, Everett is working on coffee when Sybil comes in and gives him the ring.  He remains pissed, when a shell shocked Kelly walks in and is tossed out by Sybil.  More talk about wanting Everett to be happy, when Sybil drops the illness bomb again, and Everett has a breakdown about it.  Then Julie comes in, and somehow in the scenario Everett asks her to try on the Stone ring, which she then can’t get off her finger.  Chaos ensues, and Julie is upset, no one understands why.  Then in walks Meredith, when Everett asks where she’s been, she lies and says she just got there.  The ring chaos continues, and Julie and Meredith go into the bathroom to get the ring off.  Then it all spills out…Meredith thinks she slept with Ben, Julie tells her that the ring is her wedding ring and she says something like “that’s it?”

Brad shows up and Amy is angry with Meredith for inviting him and how do you know him, etc.  They were all at the bar, he tells the story.  They are all gathering to open presents in the family room.

It’s weird because Meredith thinks that Everett is going to propose and she’s not up for it, so she rushes to give out her gift for everyone.  They’re all kind of shocked that she has gotten them a gift, then they open it as a group. She has gotten them all a framed photo of a pregnant Sybil, and they are all shocked that she would give them such a thoughtful gift.  Sybil tells her that she has done good.  She gets up to go do something, get away, and Everett tries to go with her and she blurts out that she will not marry Everett in front of everyone.  Then Everett tells her that he wasn’t going to ask, and then she blurts out that she slept with Ben.  Then Ben tries to tell them that they didn’t sleep together at all, but then Meredith leaves the room to go to the kitchen, sobbing about how humiliated she is.

She tires to put her Morton family meal in the oven, and now that they realize she’s not a horrible person, Amy and Sybil feel bad for her humiliation and go to the kitchen, where they smack the kitchen door and hit Meredith, and her dish falls all over her and all over the floor.  She is crying more, asking them why they think they are better than her, and tells Amy that she is the worst, then Amy falls in the egg mess.  Meanwhile Everett is chasing Ben, they end up in the kitchen, where Ben finally is able to tell him that they didn’t have sex, and he slept on the floor.  And why does he care really, he doesn’t love her.  Sybil, Amy and Meredith hear this exchange, and obviously agree with this assessment.

Everett showers, Julie finds out when the bus back to her home leaves that night.  Everett and Meredith chat in his room, basically concurring that they’re done.  Meredith goes to Ben’s room, and he invites her to sit on the bed. Then he tells her to get out of her clothes which smell like puke, and she puts on a tee short and they lay and sing Christmas songs.  Susannah’s husband finally shows up.  Everett wonders where Julie is, and Elizabeth has the family ring on and fesses up that Julie said goodbye.  Everett and Thad and Kelly go looking for her at the inn, then Everett spots her across the way at the bus stop.  He goes to her as the bus drives up and asks her to stay.  She doesn’t and the bus leaves.  Then the bus stops and she gets off and asks him what he’s doing for New Years.

Then they fast forward to a year later.  Thad and Patrick and their new son pull up in their Range Rover.  They go into the house, where Ben and Meredith are waiting.  Susannah and her new baby are there along with Elizabeth, as is Kelly.  In the living room are Amy and Brad Stevenson.  You notice that Amy is wearing a ring that Sybil always wore throughout the movie, confirming that she has lost her recurring battle with breast cancer definitively.  Then Everett and Julie show up.  Everyone is together and sort of smiling, and they are decorating the family Christmas tree.  They all leave Brad and Amy in the family room, where Amy hangs an ornament that Sybil had been staring at earlier in the movie. 

End of movie.

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