Read Shockya's exclusive interview with filmmaker Vivi Friedman, who’s making her feature directorial debut with the comedy-drama ‘The Family Tree,’ which is now in select theaters. The film follows the dysfunctional Burnett family in suburban Serenity, Ohio, as wife and mother Bunnie, played by Hope Davis, develops short-term amnesia following an accident. She gets a second chance at happiness with her husband, Jack, portrayed by Dermot Mulroney, from who she was planning on divorcing before she was injured. Bunnie is also given a second chance to improve her relationships with her children, 17-year-old twins Kelly, played by Britt Robertson, and Eric, portrayed by Max Theriot. Friedman discusses with us, among other things, what the casting process was like for the lead characters, and why she was compelled to discuss such controversial, serious topics as gun control and the definition of marriage, in the movie.
Written by: Karen Benardello
Shockya (SY): When you began working on ‘The Family Tree’ seven years ago, there were issues, such as the definition of marriage and gun control, that were emerging throughout the U.S. that made you worried and politically aware. Why did you feel it was important to discuss these topics in the film?
Vivi Friedman (VF): Well, I think I’m always interested in things that are happening around us. I think that equality is important, and it’s important to live and let live and be good to each other. I think a movie with these things may open our eyes, and make us think a little bit more, and be a little bit more aware of what’s going on in our own lives, and be better people.
SY: You grew up in Finland with a background in general tolerance and open-mindedness. Why do you feel it’s important to bring these ideals to the U.S., and do you think the movie will help make people more open-minded?
VF: It’s kind of an interesting question, because I think when people see the movie, I think it’s sort of a polarizing film, overall. I think there will be people who will love it, and there will be people who strongly object. I think it depends on what their mindset is when they watch the movie. Someone who is more open-minded and tolerant, perhaps, will be more open to the movie and its message. Some others may find it more offensive. So I don’t know if it can convert those. But I think entertainment is a wonderful tool to make people think and be aware. Hopefully there will be a few people who will leave the theater, and next time there’s a controversial question, they’ll be more open-minded, I hope.
SY: What was the casting process like for the main characters, particularly Jack and Bunnie, since their marriage was the main relationship in the movie?
VF: All the producers, (including) Allan Jones and J. Todd Harris, and the writer, Mark Lisson, and myself, were working on casting and who would be ideal for these roles. I always admired Hope Davis, I think she’s an amazingly talented actress. I was trying to think for the role of Bunnie, who would sort of pull off the complexities of Bunnie’s character, someone who would be plasticy Barbie Doll, and an evil person in some ways on the one hand, and a good person on the other. Also, who would be sexy and beautiful. I’ve always thought of Hope Davis as such, and she hasn’t really played such roles. I thought it would be an interesting challenge for her in that way. I’m incredibly, incredibly lucky and fortunate and blessed to be working with her. On the other hand, I was hoping for the role of Jack to find an actor who would portraye him in one way or a certain way, but who would have the acting chops to sort of do something else as well. I thought Dermot Mulroney was so talented. He could do any spectrum of the role. He could do it so broad, and the way he could do this small comedy and play the role of Jack was delightful.
To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.