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|Tim Robbins||Bill Loud|
|Diane Lane||Pat Loud|
|James Gandolfini||Craig Gilbert|
|Thomas Dekker||Lance Cloud|
|Kaitlyn Dever||Michelle Loud|
|Patrick Fugit||Alan Raymond|
|Johnny Simmons||Kevin Loud|
|James Urbaniak||Dick Cavett|
|Jake Richardson||Tommy Goodwin|
|Patti Podesta||Production Design|
|Affonso Beato||Director of Photography|
|Meg Everist||Set Decoration|
|Rolfe Kent||Original Music Composer|
|Gavin Polone||Executive Producer|
|Zanne Devine||Executive Producer|
|Shari Springer Berman||Director|
|Suttirat Anne Larlarb||Costume Design|
The film begins in 1971 with Craig Gilbert (James Gandolfini) discussing with Pat Loud (Diane Lane) the idea of a documentary series that would concern her family's day to day lives. Pat considers the proposal and accepts, amidst her son Lance (Thomas Dekker) moving to New York City. Pat's husband Bill (Tim Robbins) travels often away on business, leaving his wife alone to care for their five children.
The crew (Patrick Fugit, Shanna Collins) moves in with the Louds and begins to document them. Relations between Pat and Bill grow frayed due to his time away and the stress of the TV show's production. Gilbert tells Pat of his suspicions surrounding Bill's trips away, giving fairly strong evidence that he is cheating on her. The crew fights with Gilbert about his documentary technique, as he makes them film many personal moments.
After surreptitiously duplicating the keys to Bill's office, Pat makes a late night trip to the office and discovers documents that confirm he is cheating on Pat with two other women, resulting in Pat's preparations to file for a divorce. Angry, she tells Gilbert to have cameras there when she tells Bill, wanting "his bimbos to see it, the whole world to see it." Against her wishes, he films Pat's conversation with her brother and his wife.
Pat begins to regret her decision to let Gilbert film the break up, and tries to get one of her sons to tell him while driving Bill home instead. He, however, does not work up the courage to do this, and Pat kicks Bill out of her home on camera.
The film cuts to one year later, when An American Family is experiencing its premiere. The show airs to strong television ratings but much criticism of members of the family, in particular Pat for how she came off on camera and Lance for his homosexuality. The family then gets together to "fight back", addressing their critics by appearing on many talk shows.
Title cards at film's end offer updates for each Loud family member. Lance died of AIDS in 2001, his last wish for his parents to move back in with each other. They currently live together in Los Angeles.