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Edward Burns’ Treasure (Long) Island

November 20, 2012

Is there a better early Christmas present than a filmmaker you gave up on long ago surprising you with his best work in years? That’s the case with The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, writer-director-star Edward Burns’ return to Lawn Guyland nearly 20 years after his breakthrough film The Brothers McMullen. Since then, he’s pulled paychecks playing cops in various potboilers (most recently Alex Cross and Man on a Ledge), while his filmmaking career has stalled with an endless series of increasingly obscure indies like The Groomsmen and Newlyweds.

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas isn’t technically a sequel to The Brothers McMullen, but at times it feels like only the surname has been changed. It was shot in some of the same L.I. neighborhoods, and features two high-profile alums: Mike McGlone (aka the GEICO detective guy), once again playing Burns’ brother, and Connie Britton, who shifts from sister-in-law to love interest as a home-care worker who rekindles a spark of romance in Burns’ character, a surrogate patriarch who’s lived at home with his divorced mom (Anita Gillette, a buried treasure) ever since his fianceé died on 9/11 (wisely, longtime Tribeca resident Burns underplays this point).

The plot is set in motion when Burns’ dying dad (the great character actor Ed Lauter), who ditched the family for big business riches and another woman 20 years earlier, expresses a desire to come home for one last Christmas. The septet of siblings—including a recovering addict (Tom Guiry, a long way from Lassie and The Sandlot), a would-be golddigger (Argo‘s Kerry Bishe), an adulteress (Marsha Dietlin), a housewife (Heather Burns—no relation), an abuse victim (Caitlin Fitzgerald—no relation), a skirt-chaser (McGlone) and a peacemaker (Burns)—disagree over whether to overrule their mother’s objections and let him back into the house.

It’s a simple setup, but Burns and his ensemble—nearly all of whom have worked with him on previous films—find resonant emotional truths in their myriad subplots. (Malachy McCourt and Noah Emmerich also contribute standout supporting turns as the family priest and Bishe’s wealthy-jerk boyfriend, respectively.) Most effectively, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas captures the unmistakable milieu of Long Island, which seems even more poignant in the devastating aftermath of Sandy.

The film will be available on various VOD services starting tomorrow, in advance of its limited theatrical release on December 14. No matter what size screen you see it on, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is a surprisingly heartwarming holiday treat. And for that, we can all be thankful—and merry.

Can you wait to unwrap The Fitzgerald Family Christmas? Post a comment!

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