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Played By: Jeremy Blackman
- Alliterative Name: Stanley Spector.
- Bookworm: He spends most of his time reading and carries a large numbers of books and encyclopedias to school
- Butt-Monkey: Poor Stanley doesn't get a break once during the movie.
- Break the Cutie: No thanks in part to his father.
- Child Prodigy: The deconstruction of this trope is arguably the defining aspect of his character.
- Promotion to Parent: Stanley, hurrying to get ready for school, reminds his father they're out of dog food: promptly — and almost imperceptibly — establishing which member of the Spector household is fully-engaged and responsible. In the green room — after the on-air meltdown of the show's host, and its brightest contestant — Daddy throws a tantrum (and a chair). Role reversal complete: as a parent, Rick has been invisible.
- Potty Failure: On live TV, no less.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Beyond being on a game show.
Frank T.J. Mackey
Frank T.J. Mackey
Played By: Tom Cruise
- Berserk Button: Bringing up his late mother really angers him.
- The Charmer: He's very charismatic.
- Country Matters: "Respect the cock! Tame the Cunt!"
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Invoked in his interview where he claims that, despite his ideology, he's still close with his mother. This may be a straight example as Frank did genuinely love his mother and see her die while his father did nothing had a serious effect on him.
- Freudian Excuse: His father's abandonment, and the death of his mother molded him into the character we see in the film.
- He-Man Woman Hater: Subverted.
- Jerkass: The persona he's built around himself.
- Mr. Fanservice: Gets a brief scene in his underwear to show off his ripped physique.
- Parental Abandonment: By Earl.
- Sensei for Scoundrels: See Country Matters above.
Played By: Philip Baker Hall & Thomas Jane
- Abusive Parent: May have molested Claudia.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Can't actually recall whether he sexually abused his daughter, which (if so) altered her life from that point forward.
- Depraved Family Game Show Host: Alcoholic, unfaithful, and may have molested his daughter.
- Interrupted Suicide: Attempts to take his own life after his wife finds out that he quite possibly molested their daughter. However, the rain of frogs that occurs during the end of the film causes him to misfire his gun.
- Parental Incest: With Claudia, though he's not 100% sure about it.
- Secretly Dying: He has the same cancer Earl does.
Played By: Philip Seymour Hoffman
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Subverted. Phil looks to be going down this route when he orders a bunch of porn from a delivery service, but it turns out he was looking to find Frank's business number among the ads.
- Nice Guy: One of the few normal, well-adjusted people in the entire movie.
- Only Sane Man: Has to deal with caring for a dying man, the erratic mood of said man's wife, and tracking down the man's long-lost son. In spite of this, he keeps it together.
Played By: William H. Macy
- Abusive Parents: Financially abusive.
- Butt-Monkey: With William H. Macy, this could only go this route.
- Desperately Craves Affection: His unrequited crush on Brad the Bartender is indicative of how lonely he is.
- Ineffectual Loner: He tries to impress Brad the Bartender, to no avail.
- Former Child Star: A former Child Prodigy on a TV quiz show who developed into a Manchild and fell on hard times.
- Straight Gay
Played By: Julianne Moore
- Becoming the Mask: She originally intended to marry Earl Patridge in order to gain his fortune after he died, but she eventually fell in love with him genuinely.
- Cluster F-Bomb: In the pharmacy.
- Driven to Suicide: Out of guilt over her infidelity.
- Gold Digger: Subverted. She initially married Earl for his money, but then she genuinely fell in love with him, to the extent that, out of guilt, she even tried to have his will changed so that she would no longer be his heir.
- Mal Mariée: She mentions that she slept with many men while being married to Earl.
- MayDecember Romance: With Earl.
- Pretty in Mink: She appears in one in her first scene with the family lawyer.
- Miss Swears-A-Lot: Like most other characters in this movie.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: An elderly and rather withered movie executive dying of cancer married to a gorgeous trophy wife several decades younger than him.
Officer Jim Kurring
Off. Jim Kurring
Played By: John C. Reilly
Played By: Jason Robards
Claudia Wilson Gator
Claudia Wilson Gator
Played By: Melora Waters
Played By: Melinda Dillon
Played By: Michael Bowen
- Abusive Parent: He just doesn't let up on poor Stanley.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Downplayed but it seems that Rick knows he's abusive, even describing his actions as such to other parents, and doesn't seem too bothered by that fact.
- Education Mama: An unscrupulous example.
- Greed: His whole arc is dedicated to this.
- Hate Sink: Most of the characters are too sympathetic or messed up to hate or have some redeeming traits. But Rick is just an asshole the whole way through.
- Jerkass: Holy shit.
- Only in It for the Money: Disgustingly so.
- Slimeball: He's not exactly the most sophisticated manipulator around the block.
Played By: April Grace
- Armor-Piercing Question: She has a fondness for these.
Played By: Henry Gibson
Played By: Alfred Molina