The 35th Starz Denver Film Festival

THE FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY EDWARD BURNS

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, previewed at the Film Center two days before the festival officially opened, was written and directed by Edward Burns, the Queens native known for his breakout movie, The Brothers McMullen, 1995, and his marriage to Christy Turlington, the model.  Today he’s Spencer Tracey reincarnated.

The Family Christmas felt like an autobiographical film so it was  not surprising to learn Burns’s middle name is Fitzgerald.  That’s how deeply he understands the ferociously loyal Irish-Catholic family dynamics. If he didn’t live it daily growing up, his friends did and he took it all in.  In fact, he believes he was preordained to lay bare the innards of New York’s working class families who live by one Irish-Italian-Catholic rule:  family is everything.

In Burns’s new movie, The Fitzgerald’s are a family torn when Dad (Ed Lauter) left seven children and a wife to fend for themselves. Burns portrays the oldest son, Gerry, who takes on the responsibility of the absent father for the younger siblings and his mother.  When the grandfather dies, he also halts his future to run the family owned Fitzgerald Tavern.

As Christmas, 2012, rolls around the clan’s patriarch surfaces with a benevolent request to spend Christmas day with his family. Rosie, (Anita Gillette) his ex-wife, was adamant when she heard his request, “I told him when he left he’d never step foot in this house again.” Twenty years later, she is still mad as hell. His children, especially the younger ones, wrote dad off long ago.

In  the traditional holiday movies of yesteryear, immigrant families prove to be if nothing else, resilient, anchored by church and family. So it is with this year’s first holiday movie about the Fitzgerald Family.

There were no surprises, except for the scene with Connie’s (Caitlin Fitzgerald) nasty husband. I enjoyed the typical bantering among siblings; whether Irish-Catholic, living in New York or Los Angeles all children react emotionally when dealing with life and lousy fathers. In the Fitzgerald’s Christmas, bad-dad does an about face toward the family he abandoned years ago. The Fitzgerald’s comes to terms with their Christmas Day dilemma, even Rosie.

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