10 Film and Book Families More Dysfunctional Than Yours

by  | November 19

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy knew what he was talking about. We all know what it’s like come Thanksgiving, when even the most placid of families takes the opportunity to showcase their particular brand of crazy. When your own clan is too much to handle this Turkey Day, find a quiet spot to read or watch our one of our ten favorite novels and movies about families that are even more neurotic than yours.

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THE FOXMANS: This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

The Foxman family patriarch’s death marks the first time Judd and his whole family have come together in years. As they sit shiva together for seven days, Judd mourns both the death of his father and the recent collapse of his marriage amidst the old feuds and long-buried secrets of his dysfunctional family. The book’s darker than the movie, but both are emotionally raw and wickedly funny portraits of a family in all its flawed glory.

Read it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

THE DRUMMONDS: All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland

This may be the most out of control family reunion ever. When the Drummond clan gathers in Florida to watch one of their own launch into space, they get swept up in a hilariously implausible series of illicit events, from black market negotiations to hold-ups to kidnapping. Can the depraved, eccentric, and, yes, psychotic Drummonds put aside their ancient grudges and survive this holiday intact?

Read it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

THE FANGS: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

Most of us have felt at some point that our family’s actions were too bizarre to be anything but an elaborate work of performance art, but what if that was actually true? Buster and Annie Fang spent their childhoods as the unenthusiastic stars of their performance artist parents’ strange pieces. When they are forced to return home after their adult lives fall apart, they are unhappily drawn back into the unconventional weirdness of Fang family life. What’s more, their parents have one final performance planned, whether the kids like it or not. Welcome home!

Read it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

THE KINGS: “The Descendants”

For Matt King, living in Hawaii is no vacation. His wife is in a coma after a boating accident, his two daughters want nothing to do with him, and he’s facing pressure from his impoverished cousins to sell the land trust that is their family legacy. When he learns his wife was having an affair, he drags his daughters on a poorly-thought out trip to find the man he fears she may have been planning to leave him for. As the family struggles to reconnect, Matt must balance what he owes to the living with what he owes to the dead.

Watch it: iTunes

THE DEANS: “The Skeleton Twins”

Starring the dynamic duo of SNL veterans Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader, “The Skeleton Twins” charts the reluctant reconciliation of an estranged set of fraternal twins who coincidentally cheat death on the same day. Between an affair with a scuba instructor, a handful of failed suicide attempts, and a surprise visit from mom, can anything good come of this unexpected family reunion?

Watch it: iTunes

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THE LAMBERTS: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen gives the archetypal suburban family a decidedly dysfunctional twist in this novel about togetherness and self-destruction. Enid Lambert has one goal: to bring her family together for one last Christmas at home. But with her husband slowly losing his mind to Parkinson’s disease and her adult children caught up in everything from clinical depression to unemployment to disastrous affairs, Enid’s perfect Christmas might be harder to pull off than it sounds.

Read it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

THE MIDDLESTEINS: The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Edie’s obsession with food has left her extraordinarily obese and dangerously close to death–and on top of that, has caused her husband to abandon her. Now it’s up to her kids to save the day, no matter what Edie wants. Her daughter is determined to take revenge on her father for leaving, her son just wants everyone to be happy, and her perfectionist of a daughter-in-law has her mind set on saving Edie’s life. As this complicated family makes mess after mess in the name of love, they begin to ask themselves: when the matriarch falls apart, can a family survive?

Read it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

THE JOHNSTONS: Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt

In this satirical look at the Southern upper crust, high society Jerene Johnston is on an endless mission to preserve her family’s legacy, her husband’s honor, and her shrinking fortune, but her four children seem intent on creating scandal wherever they go. All Jerene asks is a little cooperation from her family, but they’re falling apart faster than she can pull them together.

Read it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

THE TENENBAUMS: “The Royal Tenenbaums”

Meet the Tenenbaum siblings: adopted Margot, a former child playwright, Chas, a one-time business prodigy, and Richie, a failed tennis star and artist. After their childhood successes, all three are in a post-success slump. When their estranged father Royal announces he’s terminally ill, the whole neurotic family reunites in their childhood home as Royal tries desperately to make amends. Absurd, ironic, and an aesthetic delight, The Royal Tenenbaums is a modern classic that will make you glad you were never a child genius.

Watch it: iTunes

“Death at a Funeral”

A funeral ceremony gets overshadowed by family drama in this black comedy. Aaron’s been tasked with organizing his father’s funeral and delivering the eulogy, but when the whole family gets together, nothing goes as planned. The wrong body is delivered, cousins are given accidental doses of LSD, and resentment abounds, but those are the least of Aaron’s concerns when his dead father’s supposed gay lover shows up with his eye set on blackmail.

Watch it: iTunes