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Family Tree

The Family Tree

Director: Vivi Friedman

Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Chi McBride


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A mother forgets her troubles the hard way in this independent black comedy. If the Burnett family isn't the most dysfunctional household in town, they're a good bet to be in the top three. Man of the house Jack (Dermot Mulroney) is a depressed businessman having an affair with a buxom co-worker (


A mother forgets her troubles the hard way in this independent black comedy. If the Burnett family isn't the most dysfunctional household in town, they're a good bet to be in the top three. Man of the house Jack (Dermot Mulroney) is a depressed businessman having an affair with a buxom co-worker (Christina Hendricks), his wife, Bunnie (Hope Davis), plays curious sexual role-playing games with their neighbor Simon (Chi McBride), sexually adventurous teenage daughter Kelly (Britt Robertson) is having an affair with a female classmate (Madeline Zima) while blackmailing one of her teachers (Selma Blair), and son Eric (Max Thieriot) is a fervent Christian whose loyalties are divided between a preacher obsessed with guns (Keith Carradine) and a drug-addled punk rocker (John Patrick Amedori) with a soft spot for Kelly. Things have gotten so bad for the Burnetts that their analyst has given up on them, but fate gives the family a curious second chance -- after suffering a head injury during a tryst with Simon, Bunnie develops a mild case of amnesia that wipes most of the family's troubles from her memory. The first feature film from director Vivi Friedman, The Family Tree received its world premiere at the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
With The Family Tree, director Vivi Friedman and screenwriter Mark Lisson are aiming for a cynical comedy about the absence of life's meaning for suburbanites, but their overly cutesy tone keeps the film from having the dramatic punch they want during the film's closing minutes. The Burnetts are a prototypical version of a dysfunctional family living in a gorgeous suburban two-story home. Mom Bunnie (Hope Davis) acts out home invasion
ape sexual fantasies with their neighbor Simon (Chi McBride), while sexually frustrated dad Jack (Dermot Mulroney) seethes at his lousy job while lusting for his co-worker Alicia (Christina Hendricks). Their daughter, Kelly (Brittany Robinson), cultivates a reputation as a slut, even though she hasn't really done anything to earn that distinction, and their son, Eric (Max Thieriot), is a gun-toting Christian crusader who hangs out with guys that think peeing on pot smokers is doing God's work. The foursome's unhealthy dynamic starts to unravel when Bunnie suffers a head injury during her illicit shenanigans and develops amnesia -- she can't remember anything after she got married. Now the family has a chance to put the pieces back together, even though dirty secrets -- including one hanging from a tree in the front yard -- could be exposed at any moment. Right from the start, Friedman aims for a cartoonish, almost smarmy tone; the movie is proud of how "out there" it is, and it invites us to dislike all of the characters. That comes through clearly with the opening accidental death of a Peeping Tom, and in the easy cynicism spouted by every member of the Burnett clan. We're not supposed to take them seriously, and that would be fine if Lisson's script had more anger in it, but this is a toothless satire because these characters would have these problems no matter where they resided, be it suburbia, a big city, or the outback in Australia. Only Keith Carradine's Reverend Diggs, a God-fearing, gun-loving religious figure, has any real satirical bite. He's become Eric's role model, and the movie manages to mock his behavior and his ethos while not dismissing his point-of-view -- he's the only honest, confident adult in town. His scenes make you think something is happening in the movie, but eventually we get to a would-be screwball ending where two teens break into the Burnett home, keep everybody hostage, and all the dirty laundry gets aired. This unimaginative ending might work if we cared about these people, but it's rather difficult to find any affection for anyone. The film's final point, delivered in voice-over by Eric, attempts to fuse cynicism and forgiveness into some sort of acceptance of the dysfunctional status quo, and it's a dramatic as well as comedic cop-out. The Family Tree wants to be a strong, fizzy cocktail that mocks suburban complacency, but it hits about as hard as a nonalcoholic beer.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound]
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Special Features

"Building a family tree" featurette; On-set footage

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Dermot Mulroney Jack Burnett
Hope Davis Bunnie Burnett
Chi McBride Simon Krebbs
Max Thieriot Eric Burnett
Brittany Robertson Kelly Burnett
Selma Blair Ms. Delbo
Keith Carradine Reverend Diggs
Shad Moss T-Boy
Gabrielle Anwar Nina Fouts
John Patrick Amedori Paul Stukey
Evan Ross Josh Krebbs
Madeline Zima Mitzy
Christina Hendricks Alicia
Jane Seymour Ilene
Rachael Leigh Cook Rachel
Evan Handler Harv
Jermaine Williams Trey
Steven Grayhm Andy Porter
Newell Alexander Dr. Lieberman
Eddie Hassell Ricky Johnson
Jake Richardson Roy
Pamela Shaw Vice Principal Carnes
Jack Kyle Police Officer #1
Mac Brandt Young Police Officer
Adrian Alvarado Uniformed Cop
Peggy Etra Eunice
Ally Maki Shauna
Hannah Hodson Ashley
Colby French Coach Sutton
Christopher Bradley Bobby Overmeir

Technical Credits
Vivi Friedman Director
Jesse Benson Production Designer
Seth Flaum Editor
Justine Halliday Editor
J. Todd Harris Producer
Stacey Hersh Score Composer
Stephanie Johnson Co-producer
Stephanie Johnson Co-producer
Allan Jones Producer
Tuomas Kantelinen Score Composer
Kelle Kutsugeras Costumes/Costume Designer
Mark Lisson Producer,Screenwriter
Lisa Looney Associate Producer
Marc Marcum Associate Producer
Robert Griffin Executive Producer
Veronica Collins Rooney Casting
Patrick Sheffield Editor
Marc Toberoff Executive Producer
Kathy Weiss Producer
Hong-Lei Joplin Wu Cinematographer


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