The Fitzgerald Family Christmas - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2015
In 1995 a young Edward Burns came onto the film scene with independent, family drama The Brothers McMullen and followed it up with equally impressive films like She's The One and Sidewalks of New York. Not everyone took notice but those that did began to compare Burns' writing and directing style to that of fellow New Yorker Woody Allen (without the neurosis). However, after his crime drama Ash Wednesday in 2002 people seemed to stop taking notice and Burns' directorial efforts disappeared from the limelight. He was still making films and even though I was a big admirer of his earlier stuff, even I had forgotten all about his more personal projects... until this one landed in my lap.

The Fitzgerald's are a big Irish-American family that have no shortage of problems. There are seven siblings who all look out for one another but when their estranged father wants to return home for Christmas after walking out 20 years ago, the siblings (and their mother) all have to work through their feelings and resentment towards him.

Those going into this expecting a happy family Yuletide event will certainly not get what they're expecting. As far as Christmas films go this one isn't filled with much cheer. In fact, the only reason it seems to be set around Christmas time is solely to stage an event where all the characters are forced to come together. It's a dysfunctional family drama that, once again, showcases Burns' astute eye and ear for natural characters and dialogue. With a plethora of different personalities onscreen, Burns makes it look effortless as he affords everyone the time and space to grow and develop their roles and crafts a impressive and sensitively handled ensemble piece.

In his impressively handling of the narrative strands and personal problems of his characters, Burns never forces anything. He lets the flawed individuals speak for themselves and he's aided by a solid cast that bring just the right amount of humour and heartbreak to proceedings without ever resorting to sentimentality.

Family dynamics has been the forte of Edward Burns' writing over the years and it would seem that he still has plenty to say on the matter. This may not be as solid as his debut but it's a perceptive piece nonetheless and Burns' continual independent filmmaking is deserving of a bigger audience.

Like I say, it's not the holiday cheer you might expect but also not a depressant either. It finds itself neatly under the mistletoe with a welcome embrace and a reminder that forgiveness can make a huge difference.

Mark Walker
Super Reviewer
½ April 20, 2014
An estranged father wants to spend his last Christmas with his family.
The characters in this film aren't new and border on cliche, but Edward Burns can find a sliver of individuality in each type. Burns's films are not as good as Woody Allen's and don't deal with the same heavy, Bergman-influenced issues as Allen's, but they are vaguely reminiscent.
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is a light but unsentimental character study. The people are flawed but fun, light but not without significance, and separate but related personalities. They are, in short, just like the groups of people you know.
Overall, Burns, with his $6000 movies, proves that good story-tellers don't need special effects; they just need special people.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2013
Rather boring. Too bad, because I usually like Ed Burns movies. Not at all a typical holiday film.
Super Reviewer
½ December 12, 2013
Jim Fitzgerald: I had no intention of breaking this family up!

I have yet to see an Edward Burns film that I didn't enjoy and The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is no different. What I always enjoy about his films is the simplicity he brings to them. There's no action to speak of, there's no schmaltzy bullshit; it's all just real conversations between real people. In many ways, Burns is like a Woody Allen, making conversational movies set in New York. The only real difference is that most of Burns' movies are dramas and most of Allen's are comedies.

This film follows the huge Fitzgerald family around Christmas time. Jerry is the leader of this family, the oldest of seven or eight siblings who ended up being like a father to the younger ones when their father left them high and dry as kids. Now they're all grown up and there's a lot of resentment towards their father. Most of it comes from the youngest three, who he was never a father too, and the mother who vowed to never let him set foot in her house again. He wants to now though. It could be his last Christmas as the doctors only are giving him four or five months to live because of his pancreatic cancer.

There's a lot of drama in this film. Unexpected pregnancies, an absent father, relationships going south, spousal abuse, and alcohol and drug problems come into the mix at different points in the film. What astounded me throughout though is how these plot points were used. With so much drama surrounding one family, you would think the movie would give in and become overly dramatic, but Burns' script doesn't allow this to happen. All of it occurs as it would in any family. It's pretty mind-blowing that Burns was able to pull this thing off.

All the actors, most of whom I've never heard of besides Burns and Connie Britton are all very good and believable. You'd think the movie would lose direction with so many different characters and situations, but it never does. It's also very different from the usual Christmas movie and doesn't play anything like what it's title suggests. It stays away from the sentimental moments and always feels very real. The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is definitely a film that is worth a look.
Super Reviewer
December 9, 2012
Fun and sweet.
Super Reviewer
½ December 5, 2013
When I checked what was left out for me to watch, this was the ONLY movie I had left last night... and reading the title didn't give me much hope that this would be anything more than some sweet "uplifting" holiday melodrama - which I wasn't in a mood for. I am glad I was mistaken, and I felt like an idiot that I never noticed that I had in possession an Edward Burns' movie! This writer, director and star goes back to this Irish-Catholic roots and the 1995 debut film that put him on the map, The Brothers McMullen. Burns knows his way around the business of family playing Gerry Fitzgerald, the eldest of seven children parented by Josie (in a lifetime performance of Anita Gillette), a single mom since her husband, Big Jim (Ed Lauter), walked out on them 20 years ago.

It was threading on an edge to become a Hallmark entertainment piece, but Burns and a bracingly fine cast play it for real, and that feel of reality is never allowing the film to slip to the cheap and cheese category. He wisely brings in Connie Britton, as his new romance and their scenes together have an irresistible romantic vibrancy.

Even with all the problems of the family, there is a perfect amount of grit and comic grace notes, but sometimes I felt overwhelmed with so many characters introduced at once ... brother Quinn (Michael McGlone) wants to propose to younger girlfriend (Daniella Pineda); sister Sharon (Kerry Bishe) hooks up with a father-figure (Noah Emmerich); sister Dottie (Marsha Dietlein Bennett) dumps her husband for a hottie gardener, and the next sister Connie (Caitlin Fitzgerald) is pregnant by an abusive boyfriend while the youngest brother Cyril (Tom Guiry) is just out of rehab; sister Erin (Heather Burns), has married up and looks down on her family, except for daddy... with all these it felt like an Russian classic not a modern Irish-American piece. It was a good experience, though.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2012
The film was so so. I got to see the film at a Long Island Film Festival. Of the films that Ed Burns directed, The Groomsmen is still my favorite. This one reminded me a lot of movies like The Family Stone, Home For the Holidays, and even a little like The Royal Tenenbaums.

The film needed a rewrite. It was too predictable. Also there were too many characters/family members and subplots in the film, that I forgot about a couple of them midway through the film. The pacing was also off.

On the positive, all the actors are well cast. I know Burns was trying to cast an actor from his past films in this film. Connie Britton and Mike McGlone were awesome in the film.
Super Reviewer
½ December 7, 2012
Edward Burns is a solid director! I really enjoyed the movie. But, I wouldn't recommend this if you are looking for an uplifting holiday film.
December 8, 2014
A good Christmas movie. If you like Edward Burns ( the Brothers McMullen), you will not be disappointed with this movie. Catholic themes of forgiveness with beautifully played Advent songs in the background. Strong recommend at Christmas.
December 15, 2013
Resentments, pregnancies, cancer, spousal abuse and the struggle of a recovering alcoholic all come and go on cue. this is my X-mas movie this year
½ December 7, 2013
Fitzgerald Family Christmas is well acted with occasionally witty dialogue, but there is nothing significant to propel this family drama apart from other films of the genre.
½ November 9, 2013
Burns is leading the pack of crazies in this one. I am sure that a large family can survive without this much chaos and dysfunction, but it made for an exciting movie.
May 21, 2013
One of the few Christmas films made in the modern era that is not sappy or cruel. Good acting all around. Ed Burns most all around best film since "She's the One".
January 25, 2013
All holiday-themed films should be this rich in humor and heartbreak. The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is low on bullshit, high risk-taking storytelling, all of it courtesy of Edward Burns, the writer, director and star who mines his Irish-Catholic roots and the spirit of his solid 1995 debut The Brothers McMullen. Burns is a man who knows the business of family. Burns is Gerry Fitzgerald, oldest of seven children whose mother is Josie (Anita Gillette, wonderful), a singel mother since her hsband, Big Jim (Ed Lauter), left them 20 years ago. Big Jim now has cancer and wants to be with the family for Christmas. Josie's not buying it, and the kids are divided. That's the film. Sounds contrived, but Burns and his stellar cast play it achingly for real, with deft comic notes and grit. Burns' film juggles a lot of characters, but we end up getting to know each one well. Brother Quinn (Michael McGlone) is looking to propose to his younger girlfriend (Daniella Pineda). Sister Sharon (Kerry Bishe) has her own sexual escapades with an older man (Noah Emmerich). Sister Dottie (Marsha Dietlin-Bennett) leaves her husband for a hunky gardener, sister Connie (Caitlin Fitgerald) is dealing with a pregnancy by an abusive boyfriend, while youngest brother Cyril (Tom Guiry) is fresh out of rehab. Then there's sister Erin (Heather Burns), who looks the part of the normal one and looks down on her family save for her father. The emotions roiling beneath are palpable. Burns brings in his Brothers McMullen co-star Connie Britton (tv's Friday Night Lights and Nashville) as Gerry's new love interest, and their scenes together are excellent and vibrant. Burns is a consummate indie filmmaker, an actor who works the Hollywood game to finance his own personal films. The Fitzgerald Family Christmas may be his finest.
December 18, 2012
Edward Burns's latest film is much more in-line and similar to his very first film, The Brothers McMullen, than anything else he has done since. It is a dialogue-heavy family-drama like his first, and as I enjoyed the conversations between his realistic and flawed characters in McMullen, I appreciated his return-to-form here with a holiday-themed family flick (for patient adults) about a family of seven siblings wrestling with the thought of spending a Christmas with a father who walked out on the family 20 years earlier. Burns stars as eldest brother Gerry who wants to meet with the family before Christmas to discuss what they'd like to do about their returning father; but as the other six siblings (including Mike McGlone [from McMullen], Kerry Bishe [Argo] and Heather Burns [Miss Congeniality]) have other family and personal obligations before the holidays it proves to be rather difficult to get the clan together. The film isn't anything grounbreaking and it can be melodramatic but it is a pretty realistic depiction of a middle-class family with everyday problems (for film anyway) and so many might not want to watch it. The best thing about this film is the chemistry between the actors -- Burns has assembled a cast that works very well together and while some of the dialogue and situations might be a little far-reaching, there is no denying these actors work well together. Connie Britton ("American Horror Story", The Brothers McMullen) has a small role as a care-giver for an elderly neighbor; but it is nice seeing her and Burns re-unite onscreen again as they work (they are great together ... but who can't she play opposite?). There are some moments of BAD lighting and staging but when this happened I stopped watching and listened. This is for Edward Burns fans and those who like simple family dramas.
½ December 13, 2012
Solid cast and another solid story from the indie workhorse Eddie Burns. Big, splintered families will get this pic. Back East peeps. Might fall short with everyone else. Low on holiday cheer, he does a solid job of balancing a massive ensemble to keep you engaged.
December 9, 2012
If you like Edward Burns movies like the Brothers McMullen (I do) than this will not disappoint. Plus Connie Britton from Friday Night Lights and Nashville what could be bad. This is movie playing in art houses but you can rent from itunes and vudu for the next 30 days.
December 8, 2012
I'd heard a lot about this one going in, but I'm sad to say that The Fitzgerald Family Christmas just failed to win me over, as it's just boggled down by some terrible dialogue, uneven pacing, way too many characters to follow (all of which are idiotic and unlikable as hell), and a very generic plot. Not even he terrific leading performance from Edward Burns can save this film from being more than just average.
November 27, 2012
This simply is not a good script. The dialogue is fine, but the amount of characters and sub plots is unjustifiable. I like what Burns was getting at, but this movie is off target.
November 18, 2012
As with all other Edward Burns films I have seen, this movie had lots of clumsy bits. The writing was also hardly filled with scintillating bits of dialogue. And yet . . . there were moments of genuine feeling here, and better performances than I was expecting. By the end of the film, when the family decides to reconcile for Christmas, I actually found myself with a tear in my eye. But then . . . Burns had to almost ruin it with an ill-conceived and badly executed ending dinner scene, in which he tried to make a bad modern arrangement of "Veni Veni Emmanuel" do the emotional heavy lifting for him. Oh, well. That flub does not take away from what works, earlier.

If you like family dramas, enhanced with ethnic specificity, then you might just really enjoy the picture. Think "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" meets "In America," and be grateful that Burns has come a long way, as both a director and actor, since "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's the One." He's appealing, most of the other actors are appealing, and if you can ignore the missteps, you'll emerge after 110 minutes feeling pretty good.

A final note: this is a film that you can either choose to see in theaters, or watch on Video-on-Demand (VOD). As such, it is a potential harbinger of distribution models to come (though not the first film to try this out). Choose your platform, and see which you prefer.
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