The adult siblings of the Fitzgerald family prepare for their estranged father to return home for Christmas for the first time since he walked out on his family 20 years ago. Family rifts emerge, and like with any family, Christmas brings a mixed bag of complicated emotions and dynamics. Alliances form, old wounds are reopened or glossed over, and the possibility for a new hope and forgiveness emerges. (from BH Impact)
Most of the time when you think of Christmas movies, you think of whimsical stories about Santa Claus or elves or reindeer, and not necessarily dramatic tales about families dealing with real life issues. But for The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, Burns has recruited an impressive and skilled cast who embody colorful but realistic characters that many people, if not families, can relate to. There's nothing whimsical or especially light about The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, but the theme of forgiveness, family, and togetherness becomes a glue that holds the story together and actually makes it a worthwhile holiday endeavor. The acting is spot-on, too, which just helps make this indie film work so well. And it's to Burns' credit that the direction and script are also strong.
What's interesting to note, though, is that when The Fitzgerald Family Christmas released to theaters last December, it was "not rated" but basically would have fallen under the R-rated banner is presented tot he MPAA. Due mostly to language and some thematic material, there's no way the original cut would have been given a PG-13 rating. Surprisingly, however, the film was given an edit for DVD and online viewing, and when watching the PG-13 version, you'll be surprised to find several profanities either substituted (like overdubbing on TV) or simply muted out. It might feel a little sloppy to some, but I can understand both why Burns went for the original edgy take and agreed to a more family-friendly version. While I only watched the PG-13 cut (and, in all honesty, wouldn't have seen the movie otherwise), the emotion and grit of the story feels like it's geared for a more mature audience. This isn't White Christmas, after all. But the harsher content is certainly not needed to make the story work and it is just as effective and emotional in its edited form as it would be otherwise. Also, the PG-13 cut is 3 minutes shorter than the theatrical version, so I'm not sure if it's just profane lines that were sliced out or an entire scene as well.
The story wraps drama around each member of the Fitzgerald family--from an abusive husband for one to an atheist husband for another who doesn't want their toddler son to be baptized, to the youngest son having just gotten out of rehab. There are subtle spiritual themes that pepper the film, like images of Jesus and the manger scene and hints at Catholicism, but the biggest theme in the movie is forgiveness and overcoming wrong done to us to find freedom in forgiveness. Burns manages to bypass cheesy or over-sentimentality here to deliver it in a pretty real way. All of the characters have their flaws but they still remain likeable too.
Although the content has been trimmed down, just keep in mind that there is still some profanity in the film. While a batch of the uses of the "S" word were muted, a couple are still heard during the film. No "F" words were left in, but there is at least one instance where it's very, very obvious that the Fitzgerald father says it when it's muted in one scene. There's a handful of blasphemy use too, which seems kind of out of place for a movie that is more concerned about muting out some profanity but not instances of the Lord's name in vain. And in a movie that is about Christmas, Christmastime and forgiveness, blasphemy especially feels unnecessary. There's a little bit of sexual content referenced, but nothing is shown. And a character is roughly pushed to the ground by her husband to imply some spousal abuse has been happening between the two. Overall, the movie has the tone of a film intended for a more adult audience, so it's pretty clear this one isn't meant for the whole family.
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas isn't your usual Christmas movie; it's not whimsical, it's not silly, and there's certainly no sleigh or Santa Claus to be found. What the movie is, however, is an excellent indie drama about a real American family with real American problems at Christmastime. It's certainly not for everyone, but The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is one of the better holiday efforts I've seen in recent years.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 11/14/13)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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