The Family Tree, starring Dermot Mulroney and Hope Davis is nuts, in a really great way. This dysfunctional family comedy about a family going to pieces is populated by a wonderfully game all star cast that sacrifices dignity at every turn to deliver more than a few ridiculously funny moments.
The story is thus, Dermot Mulroney stars as Jack Burnett, a below average suburban working stiff. Hope Davis is his bitchy wife Bunnie and Max Theriot and Britt Robertson are their screwed up kids Eric and Kelly. Eric is a Jesus freak with a love for guns while Kelly portrays herself as loose though she’s not really.
What happens to this family during The Family Tree includes infidelity, a very unique accidental death–an acquaintance, not a family member—drugs and some divine intervention. All of the action is captured by first time director Vivi Friedman in a madcap fashion that plays like American Beauty through the prism of the Coen Brothers.
The phenomenal supporting cast includes Chi McBride’s funniest and most unexpected performance in years as the Burnett’s neighbor. McBride is joined by a veritable Battle of the Network Stars size supporting cast that includes Burn Notice star Gabrielle Anwar, Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, Jane Seymour, Selma Blair, Madeline Zima, Keith Carradine, Rachel Leigh Cook and Bow Wow, among others.
Corralling all of this talent into one wonderfully wild movie is first time director Vivi Friedman. Working from a script by veteran TV writer, and I do mean veteran, the guy wrote for Hart to Hart, Mark Lisson, Friedman takes her cast and just keeps whipping them into a weird comic frenzy right up to the odd, highly unlikely but still strangely satisfying ending.
Hollywood tried to turn Dermot Mulroney into a hunky leading man a few years ago but it never took. He’s better off without the romantic comedies; character roles like this one in The Family Tree may just be his niche. Mulroney finds a note of suburban white guy awkwardness in The Family Tree that never fails to find the most unexpected laughs.
Hope Davis is a terrific match for Mulroney as a Real Housewife of just outside Beverly Hills. I don’t want to spoil all the trouble that Davis’s Bunnie finds in The Family Tree, but I’ll just say that after her character comes out of a brief hospital stay she becomes endearing and adorable in strange and interesting ways.
I could go on for a while about the rest of the cast but as I said, I don’t want to spoil the movie. The Family Tree is not without its flaws, the guy in the tree… sorry, no spoilers. That aside, I laughed a lot and quite hard while watching this terrific little indie comedy that will without doubt sneak up and surprise you if you give it a chance.