The Family Tree – Review

If you think your family is crazy, you should see mine!

Isn’t that the old saying? What family is perfect, and what would define this perfect family? Certainly not the model perfect family are the Burnett family in Vivi Friedman’s darkly comedic drama debut The Family Tree, yet throughout the 90-minutes, a family might have only glimpses of happiness, and sometimes that might just be enough. It is for the Burnetts, and even through infidelity, armed robbery, job loss, and one over-bearing mother-in-law, all of the dysfunction just might be the normal fitting pieces for them to be happy. In a kaleidoscope of dark humor and drama, The Family Tree might be funniest jab at America’s dying family unit since TV’s Married…with Children.

The notion of a modern American family is, or has, greatly changed recently, but if this founding notion is going to survive, then maybe a little self-referential conscience might help. The Family Tree drags these archetypes and caricatures of the breadwinner, the desperate housewife, the confused teens, through the dirt. Much like how World’s Greatest Dad was a darkly humorous look at the father/son dynamic, The Family Tree isn’t shy of making fun of the doom and gloom that sometimes invades a marriage. Aided by a great cast in Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Max Thieriot, and Britt Robertson, the film is also carried by the supporting cast. Mulroney’s dry, down-and-out-father, is a perfect symbol of the falling stature of the working man in today’s economy. Hope Davis is pitch-perfect, as always.

The Family Tree at times, feels like it adds too many sub-plots, one-off characters, and jokes, something that might overwhelm some, but it also keeps it wits about the characters we care about, which leads into a fantastic finish. I suspect screenwriter Mark Lisson’s script was a hoot to read, and even when the film becomes a little convoluted, there’s enough heart every so often to make The Family Tree a nice little delight. It’s gotta be a good life, it’s gotta be a good life, right?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Jon Peters

I love film. That is all.

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