The Family Tree

The Family Tree Movie PosterSo, I’m currently in the middle of several projects for this blog, but the one most likely to be published next/soonish covers House at the End of the Street and a movie called Summer’s Moon. While writing about the former, which stars Max Thieriot, I decided it would be appropriate to bring up some of his other movies, many of which happened to heavily feature brother/sister relationships. My couple of paragraphs on The Family Tree became several pages, and I decided it would be better to turn it into its own post.

 

Max Thieriot - Black and White Photoshoot - Adjusting TieMax Thieriot - Suit (1)

The Family Tree came out in 2011 but it still feels like forever since I saw it. I kept about 25 minutes worth of clips, mostly focusing on the scenes between Max Thieriot’s character and his sister. I just rewatched those clips, which, naturally, helped refresh my memory, but I’m still fuzzy on what I didn’t rewatch.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (51)

The Family Tree Movie Poster (3)The movie is about the dysfunctional Burnett family – mother Bunnie (Hope Davis), father Jack (Dermot Mulroney), daughter Kelly (Britt Robertson), and son Eric (Max Thieriot). We’re painted a rather ugly picture of their respective relationships – Bunnie is joyless and obsessed with the charity events she throws, and she’s having an affair; Jack is joyless and weak and not interested in his family or his marriage; Eric is a born again Christian and a gun nut; and Kelly acts like a slut and loves to say stuff that makes people angry.Britt Robertson Photoshoot (2) - black and white

Layout 1The movie definitely has that independent film feel – fortunately it’s a bright and colorful comedy, which is a mitigating factor. I actually quite enjoyed it, though I agree with the criticism that it didn’t quite know what it was doing. And I feel like I’ve seen a lot of films just like this one – the parents always say extremely hurtful things, which is the only way to make the obnoxious teenager daughter seem at all sympathetic. The son is usually weird and fanatical in some way, and the daughter always thinks that everyone else is a hypocrite and likes to call everyone out on how fake they are. Yeah, I’ve seen this movie like 20 times. But at least this one has Max Thieriot in it.Max Thieriot - Black and White Photoshoot (1)

What happens is that Bunnie gets amnesia and can only remember up until when she had first gotten married to Jack. The result is that she’s much sweeter, giving the family a sort of second chance at happiness and functionality. It’s a nice story, really. A happyish ending. And pretty funny at times. So I would definitely recommend it to someone who likes movies about dysfunctional families.

But on to Eric and Kelly’s relationship.

The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt RobertsonIt’s clear that Eric’s love for the Bible and guns is fairly new and his family is still getting used to it. His father doesn’t like the gun part, and Kelly’s opposed to the Bible-thumping. Bunnie reserves all of her vitriol for her daughter.

Kelly comes down to breakfast and slaps a Bible on the counter. The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (1)The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (2)

Eric left it under her pillow the night before. (And that’s possibly not the first time he’s done it – the dialogue is unclear.)

Do you see the way the camera takes Eric’s perspective? We look down at the Bible along with Eric, and then we slowly slide up Kelly’s body. The coloring/lighting of the GIF doesn’t allow you to see exactly how suggestively she is appareled:The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (3)(made all the better by the fact that her mother is about to comment on the fact that she can see right through her daughter’s shirt) but he’s got plenty to look at. And he does look at it – the proof is in the camerawork.

“Just trying to help,” he says to her.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (4)

“I don’t need your fucking help,” she replies, sitting down next to him.
The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (5)

“Don’t talk to your brother that way,” Bunnie chastises. Then she looks at Kelly more closely and comments that doesn’t her blouse show a little too much nipple?The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (6)

“Well if you want every boy in school thinking that you’re a little slut…” Bunnie says. “Which you may be.”

“Fine,” Kelly says. And then she proceeds to take her shirt off right there in front of everyone. And as you could probably guess from the nipple comment (and the screencap), she’s not wearing a bra. Her father’s sitting behind her, so he can only see her back, but Eric is sitting right next to her at the counter and his body is turned towards her which means if he wasn’t looking down at his cereal he would actually be facing her. His jaw drops and he turns to look away:The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (7)

But after we cut to Kelly removing the shirt:The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (8)

We cut back to a close-up on Eric’s face and he’s still looking at her. It could have been an editing error, but as far as I’m concerned, it just means he decided to look a little more.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (9)

(I’m willing to concede the possibility that he didn’t think she was actually going to fully remove her shirt, and he was looking back at her assuming she was done feigning, only to see that she had indeed taken it off and was now totally topless.)

Kelly walks out of the room after throwing the shirt at her mother, presumably off to get a new one.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (10)

“Definitely a little slut,” Bunnie says. The parents seem largely unaffected, like it’s all very run-of-the-mill. Eric is the only one who seems to think it was a big deal. He just sits there and glances around, pouring his cereal and looking traumatized.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (11)It’s hilarious.

After their mother’s accident, while they’re all sitting around at the hospital, Eric is there with his reverend, and they’re talking about some of the shooting they were doing earlier, and Jack says, “Eric you’re weird enough as it is without being some sort of gun-nut to top it all off,” and we get a reaction shot from Kelly, who seems quite bothered.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (12)The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (13) The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (14) Later that night, Kelly and Eric are alone downstairs. Kelly is trying to hint that their mother was having an affair but Eric isn’t picking up on it. She’s eating ice cream right out of the tub (it’s a really big tub), and Eric takes it from her and sits down on the stairs and starts eating it with her spoon. She sits down beside him and says, “Do you think Mom blows Dad?”The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (15)

Um, AWKWARD.

Do you see the way she’s looking at him at the beginning of the GIF – you can see the idea come to her. They’ve just been having a perfectly civil conversation, and now they’re sitting down together, and she decides to act out against him. It’s pretty clear when she switches gears.

“Wha-what?” Eric stutters. He seems more offended by the subject of blow jobs than surprised that she’s discussing such a sexual/family-centric topic with him.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (16)

“Maybe if she did they wouldn’t be getting a divorce.”The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (17)

“They’re not getting a divorce.”

“Sure they are. But maybe a little oral sex would spice things up.” What doesn’t necessarily come across in the dialogue itself is that Kelly is clearing trying to upset him, both with her flippancy about the idea of their parents divorcing and the frank sexual discussion.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (18)

“Shut up, you’re disgusting!” he says. (But he doesn’t yell it.)The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (19)

“What? There’s nothing wrong with it,” she argues. She’s offscreen, so I don’t know what her face looks like, but she sounds like she’s acting out the beginning of a porno.

“Yes there is,” he says, looking down.

“They talk about it on TV all the time,” she replies. (They don’t really, though, and even if they did, I’m not sure exactly what point that’s supposed to support.)The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (20)

“The Bible forbids it,” he says.

“Tell me, where does it say ‘no blow jobs’ in the Bible, Eric?”The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (21)

“I couldn’t tell you-I don’t know the exact…But I know it’s in there.” Oh Eric. Amateur. He could have just made up a verse and she wouldn’t have known if he was telling the truth or not.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (22)

“What do you think the word is on rim jobs?” she asks him.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (23)

That’s the last straw. “Jesus Christ, Kelly!” He pops up to his feet and stands at the foot of the stairs to look her in the face. She’s laughing. “Why do you do this?” he demands.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (24)

“What? What do I do?”

“You stay stuff just to piss people off. Why?”

“Because when people are mad it shows you who they really are.” God, I hope not. Though I do think there’s something in the idea of knowing what someone is like at their absolute worst.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (25)

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“OK, then who am I?”The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (27)

She struggles for the words for a second. “You’re a bible-thumping hypocrite who really doesn’t know shit about the scriptures.”The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (26)

I think it’s interesting the way she hesitates. Perhaps she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings and then decides it would be good for him, or perhaps she’s searching for the cruelest words she can say.

(I don’t think he’s a hypocrite. Although I do think taking the Lord’s name in vain the way he did a few seconds ago is probably a worse sin than anything he has derided Kelly for. But the thing about Eric is that I think he doesn’t quite understand that yet, so no, I don’t think calling him a hypocrite is fair. The rest is pretty accurate, if a bit harsh.)

“Fuck you,” Eric says, pushing the ice cream back into her arms and going up to his room.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (28)

She laughs again. “Well that’s the first real thing you’ve said to me in months.”The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (29)

I think that’s a big hint. She seems to feel like she has lost him. So, in the end, it’s almost sort of sweet. She was trying to get him angry because she wanted to have a real interaction with him.Britt Robertson Photoshoot (5)

Britt Robertson Photoshoot (4)She goes in to see her father later that night. He’s watching a video of when he and Bunnie first got married, so it’s sort of a nicer scene. They talk about how beautiful she was, and how much they were in love. Then Kelly tells him that he probably shouldn’t have called Eric a weirdo, “even thought he is”. The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (30)

And Jack agrees, of course. He goes in to apologize later, but Eric is playing around with his gun, and Jack just ends up taking the gun and leaving instead.Max Thieriot - Suit Max Thieriot - Suit (3)

Eric hangs out with these “Christian” guys who like to find “sinners” and beat them up. Eric obviously isn’t as into it as the others, but he’s just as guilty. Though I think he has deluded himself into believing they’re actually doing good. This kid at school, Paul, catches them doing it and gets the last word before running away. So the leader of Eric’s little gang decides to go after Paul. It gets really bad, and Eric ends up saving him before the leader guy killed him. So he and Eric end up becoming friends.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (35)(Although the other Christian kids that Eric hangs out with are bad ‘uns, the Reverend, played by Keith Carradine, is a pretty cool dude.)The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (31)

Britt Robertson PhotoshootAt the same time, there’s this lesbian subplot. I’m not sure what the point of it was and it never really gets a satisfying resolution either. There’s this girl, Mitzy (Madeline Zima), whose locker is next to Eric’s. It sorts of seems like she has a crush on him, especially since she knew his locker combination. Cause that’s normal. Right. She has a reputation for being a lesbian. Kelly starts hanging out with her a little and asking her about Eric. Mitzy is quite flattered to hear that Eric had told Kelly that she was nice. So Kelly says to Mitzy, “You’re straight, aren’t you?”The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (32)

And Mitzy denies it, eventually saying, “Fuck you,” after Kelly kept pushing. “No, I don’t think so. I think you want to fuck my brother.” Kelly seems awfully interested in it, doesn’t she?

Paul, Eric’s friend, has a crush on Kelly. The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (33) The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (34)

The four of them are at a carnival together – Paul and Eric hanging out, and Kelly hanging out with Mitzy. There’s one scene where they all look at each other and it’s super awkward. Mitzy waves at Eric, who has just denied knowing who she was to the inquisitive Paul. The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (36)Kelly is glaring – Paul just nodded hello to her but the focus of the camera is on Eric as he waves abashedly back to Mitzy, so it seems more like Kelly is upset about that.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (37) The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (38)

Jack and Bunnie are on the Ferris wheel. The amorous Bunnie decides to try and give Jack a blow job, remembering the days when he couldn’t keep his hands off her wherever they were.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (39) I’m not sure I really approve, but when the four kids, who have joined each other at the cotton candy stand, end up watching, I really have to appreciate the moment, because Kelly says to Eric with a smile, “Maybe their marriage will survive.” Eric just stands there, horrified.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (40)In a later scene, Eric and Kelly are hanging out on their front porch. The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (41)I love it when a guy has his tie loosened, it really does it for me. So maybe that’s why I equivalate (OK, that’ not a word, but it should be) a loosened tie with male “lingerie”. Or perhaps because a guy usually only loosens his tie like that when he’s about to take his clothes off, or at the very least when he has retired to privacy. (Of course, in this case, Eric is still getting ready.) There’s just something so intimate about it. But seriously, Eric’s standing there with his untied tie just hanging around his neck and I’m thinking, “Is it really appropriate for you to be dressed like that while hanging out with your sister?” because it’s like a woman wearing lingerie in my mind. Kind of like school uniforms for girls.

Plus he’s leaning against the column all sexy-like.

I guess this my issue and not Kelly’s.

Anyway, he says, “Do you think Mom’s having a nervous breakdown?”

But Kelly just thinks their mom is nuts.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (42)“Were you nuts when you ripped off your blouse?” I love that he’s bringing that up. Clearly the memory lingers.

Kelly laughs. “That was different.”

“How about giving blow jobs to any guy that asks?” Eric moves to sit beside her on the steps. “Does that mean you’re nuts?”
The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (43)The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (44) ANY GUY THAT ASKS. Eh, Eric?

“No. It means I’m generous.”

Eric nods, sarcastically humoring her.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (45)“You know I don’t really do that,” she suddenly says, using her real tone of voice instead of that mocking one that she uses 90% of the time.

“Yeah, I know. I know you don’t,” he says. “You just want people to think that you do.”The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (46)Their mother interrupts them. They both act skittish and embarrassed. Kelly was smoking, so she’s struggling to hide the cigarettes but I’m not sure what Eric is so shaken up about. I doubt he would care if she got caught smoking, especially not by Mom 2.0.

The next scene is at the church. (I can’t remember why the whole town seems to be there.) Paul is standing outside, and Eric joins up with him while the rest of his family heads inside. Paul and Kelly exchange some one-liners, and Eric watches awkwardly, and a little distressedly.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (48)“Dude, I can’t stop thinking about your sister,” Paul says.

“Forget it,” Eric orders him, rather coldly.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (49)“Why?” Paul asks, but they’re interrupted. 🙂 Eric never does answer that question. Hmmm…..

Max Thieriot - Suit (5)
Britt Robertson Photoshoot (1)

So, picking up the lesbian subplot that I don’t understand the purpose of, Mitzy really is a lesbian (though the writer and director clearly went out of his way to make it seem like she wasn’t, which was annoying – but it was pretty cool the way he kept twisting it around), and she has been having an affair with one of their teachers (Selma Blair), who is having some sort of breakdown. Mitzy takes Kelly along to confront her.

The teacher is jealous, thinking that Mitzy and Kelly are together. Kelly says, “I’m not her girlfriend.”

“Yeah, we got it, Kelly: you’ll give it up for any asshole because you can’t have real feelings for anyone,” Mitzy responds. (Mitzy made a move on her earlier and was rebuffed.)

“I have real feelings,” Kelly protests.

“Yeah? For who?” Mitzy demands.

Kelly stares at her with her mouth hanging open for a second and then looks down.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (47)Mitzy laughs angrily and then leaves.

I think the implication is that Kelly didn’t have an answer for her. (I’m pretty sure Mitzy was talking exclusively about a romantic someone and not family or friends.) But it could just as easily be the case that Kelly didn’t want to say who it was. Eh?

So, the leader of Eric’s old posse totally loses it and pulls out a gun and fires a shot at a public event. Eric shoots at the bullet and hits it exactly (through out the movie he is described as a phenomenal marksman), stopping it. And that’s sort of how it ends. Eric is commended as a hero, as are Jack and Bunnie who helped save someone else and taken down the shooter. And they all are sort of happier and healed at the end. Yada yada yada.The Famiy Tree Kelly Eric Burnett Max Thieriot Britt Robertson (50)

I feel really silly because I barely remember what wasn’t in the clips that I kept. There was some hint, I think, that Kelly and Paul would soon be together. I think Bunnie probably got her memories back.

But who really cares, right? There was a reason I only kept the clips that I did.

For non-canon, it was pretty good, right? Her taking off her shirt in front of him (no bra!), their numerous conversations about blow jobs and especially the fact that she kept trying to bring up sexual things with him, the fact that both the friends were interested/allegedly interested in the siblings, the possibility that Kelly didn’t want to say who she had feelings for, and Eric outright telling Paul to forget Kelly.Britt Robertson Photoshoot (3) - secret circle promo Max Thieriot - Bow Tie Max Thieriot - Suit (4) Max Thieriot - Suit (2)TFT_Poster_051410

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This entry was posted in Comdies, Dysfunctional Family: Independent, Movies, Movies That Should Have Incest, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Family Tree

  1. Dóris Bennington says:

    Hello again! I don’t know if you remember me, it’s been awhile since the last time I commented here, but I always read the entries on my email. This seems a very interesting movie to watch with the incestuous perspective.
    Sometimes I feel that any movie with a family plot or siblings interaction could be lead that way, but it’s not actually true. This movie is a perfect example of how the sexuality is brought in their context all the time. I don’t think it’s a casual subject to speak with family members, specially your sibling of another gender. Which means that probably the director had some intentions with those two interacting the way they did.
    I’ve been following your comments about Arrow and actually that is the only reason I’m watching. I don’t like the story or the characters (although I really like Thea, she’s kind of awesome), but the incestuous vibe is too big to ignore! Seriously! And some non-incest-shippers I know also think the same thing. They say they have too much chemistry to play brother and sister. I agree, but I would like if they had more scenes together, in the beginning it was more frequent. Anyway, my point is that some actors can’t really play siblings without bringing some dangerous vibe.
    When this happens it can be interpreted very differently of what the director intended, which it’s not always clear, like Family tree. I didn’t watch, but it seems hard to know if the actors have the chemistry or the director did a good job with the plot in his hands. I choose the second option mostly because of the themes they seem to discuss all the time (sex), which could also be just some excuse to mock the Christianity using his beliefs vs hers. Well, I’m going to watch this movie soon, when I do I’ll come back and tell you my opinions.
    I don’t know how much if this comment makes sense lmao I hope you excuse my late-night english.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Hi! Yes, I do remember you, of course. I’m always glad when you choose to comment, but I’m also very glad to hear that you’ve been reading the entries I’ve been posting.

      I, personally, enjoy Arrow quite a bit, but I’ve definitely watched shows before that I didn’t like just for the brother/sister interaction. It does seem to be the case with Oliver/Thea that even those not inclined to see incest everywhere agree that they give off an incestuous sort of vibe. I think with them, a really important part of it is the actors. A perfect example is just a few weeks ago when Oliver whispered in her ear that she looked beautiful. It would have looked perfect innocent in the script, but onscreen it came off sort of sexual. But then we also have moments like when Thea walked in on him changing in 1.02 or in 1.09 when Oliver hated her boyfriend that are suggestive in the writing itself. That’s probably why, as far as incest ships go, it’s so popular. It did seem like they used to have more scenes together, I agree. I’m sure we’ll get another episode soon that focuses on their relationship.

      Yes, the reason why I end up watching a lot of movies like this one – The Family Tree – is because there’s always a chance that it’ll either be very shippable or there will actually be canon incest overtones. It’s less often the case with big box office releases, but some of the more independent or lower budget films like this one sometimes walk that line.

      I really can’t be sure what the writer/director intended with Eric and Kelly’s relationship in this movie. Her frank sexual discussions with him seemed quite odd, even when we know she was trying to shock him. But it’s possible the writer didn’t think so. I wouldn’t say the actors have chemistry like Stephen Amell and Willa Holland on Arrow, but they are very appealing together.

      I hope you won’t be disappointed. I always hate knowing that I recommended something and the person who watched it thought it was a waste of their time. If you’re not enjoying the movie, then you should fastforward to the scenes I mentioned. I covered in extreme detail the most important interactions between Eric and Kelly.

  2. queencest says:

    I watched the film as per your recommendation and for sure I enjoyed Eric and Kelly’s characters and their scenes the best. I appreciate where the movie was trying to go but sometimes it came off strange – the dead guy in the tree – how could they not know…to busy with their lives I guess. I liked the ending how Eric saved the day with the gun, you expect him to grow up into a killer or something and it turns it on its head.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Yeah, the dead guy in the tree is definitely the weirdest part. I think the fact that no one noticed is definitely the point, but I didn’t quite get it.

      I do really like what you mentioned, about the writer turning your expectations re: Eric and his gun on their head. That was well done. I always like anything that plays on on our expectations, if it’s done well.

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