Sometimes ensemble casts just can’t make a movie work. When a film stars (takes a deep breath) Hope Davis, Selma Blair, Britt Robertson, Christina Hendricks, Madeline Zima, Rachael Leigh Cook, Gabrielle Anwar, Jane Seymour, Dermot Mulroney, Chi McBride and Bow Wow, you’d like to think it’d be worth watching. Unfortunately, The Family Tree isn’t.
Hope Davis and Dermot Mulroney play an unhappily wed couple, The Burnetts, who are on the brink of divorce. Their children, Britt Robertson’s Kelly and Max Thieriot’s Eric, couldn’t be more different: Kelly is a sarcastic modern day hippie who believes in giving free love to all the boys in school and Eric is a Christian who likes to play with guns. It’s a dysfunctional family that’s about to fall apart, until Bunnie (Davis) has an accident (I’ll spare you the details) and can’t remember anything past her wedding day.
Now there’s a lot of things going on in this movie and none of them seem to play out in a very clear way. While Bunnie is trying to piece together who she was, and not finding anything she likes, Kelly is befriending Mitzi (Madeline Zima, who played Claire’s love interest, Gretchen, on Heroes), a girl with a leg brace she caught making out with her teacher (Selma Blair) in the girls’ bathroom.
Kelly doesn’t think Mitzi’s a lesbian, but Mitzi insists she is, saying she’d rather “eat p—y than give a b–w job” any day. But Kelly’s convinced Mitzi has a crush on her brother, as Mitzi asked about him earlier in their conversation.
Ms. Delbo (Blair) is not a fan of Kelly and think she’s a troublemaker, but Mitzi, of course, is her star pupil. Mitzi says Ms. Delbo is in love with her and wants more out of the relationship, but Mitzi wants to break things off. She enlists Kelly to go with her to deliver the heartbreak, and Ms. Delbo is drunk from too much wine and not too thrilled that Mitzi brought a friend. Kelly informs her teacher that Mitzi is not a lesbian but Mitzi insists that yes, she is and she’s in love with Kelly. This makes Ms. Delbo take to the roof and dramatically attempt suicide, but Kelly and Mitzi stop her. Kelly, it appears, does not return Mitzi’s feelings, and it’s the last we hear about it.
This is just one of the very odd subplots in a tapestry of confused incidents. There’s no real resolution to any of them, other than Bunnie’s hoping to rebuild her life and her family. It’s almost as if the writer had an idea to create a film that included sex, drugs, religion, bullying, lesbianism and Christina Hendricks’ boobs* and built several stories around it with no real hope of tying up all the loose ends.
*Note: They are not exposed — just several close-ups of her boobs under a shirt, as ogled by Dermot Mulroney
Besides the idea that the teacher/student lesbian relationship is incredibly passe at this point, it didn’t have any relevance to the rest of the film. But then again, the film wasn’t that relevant at all. If it succeeds at anything, it’s at being dysfunctional, like the family at its center.
Watch the trailer here: