Tallulah (2016): Ultimately Uncomfortable (Review)

Ellen Page is Tallulah

Written and directed by Sian Heder  (Her first feature-length film.) Tallulah is a drama built around Ellen Page‘s “free spirit” character. Despite being an addictive film it is, ultimately, uncomfortable to watch.

Tallulah (Page) lives in the back of her van with boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit). It is not an ideal set up and after the two make love in the vehicle, he complains about their living arrangements. She tells Nico that this is how she lives, full stop. 

The next morning, Tallulah wakes up to find Nico gone.

A journey to Manhattan puts the 20 something woman in touch with Nico’s mother Margo (Allison Janney). At first Margo turns Tallulah away but then immediately regrets her decision.  

Hungry, Tallulah heads to a hotel and eats food off the room-service trays outside the rooms. She is caught by Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard), a drunken and disturbed mother who needs someone to look after her baby.  

Carolyn is clearly not in an emotional state to look after a child of any age. Later when she returns from her date, Carolyn passes out on her bed. Tallulah, after stealing cash and jewelry from the woman, takes her baby.

Tallulah goes to see Margo again and this time tells her that the baby is Nico’s.  Margo reluctantly allows the pair to stay for “just one night.”

The film spends a lot of time  allowing the three to bond. It also delves into the breakup of Margo and Nico’s father  Stephen (John Benjamin Hickey).  Stephen has moved in with his gay lover Andreas (played by long time pal of Sian Heder, Zachary Quinto).

Carolyn realizes her baby is missing and calls the police.  Detective’s Richards (David Zayas) and Kinnie (Uzo Aduba) contact the baby’s father Russell (Fredric Lehne) and start investigating Carolyn while they look for Tallulah and the baby. 

Heder’s first feature length film is a mixed bag.  Not amusing enough to be classified as a dramedy, it is, however,  oddly compelling and impossible to stop watching. Throughout the film one cannot escape the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Tallulah taking the infant is so intrinsically wrong, yet we understand her motivation. It becomes even clearer later on when more backstory is revealed.  The young woman is a impulsive creature who lies and steals to make her way through life.  Taking baby Madison was done on the spur of the moment and it is clear this will end in tears.

Margo and Tallulah eventually bring out the best in one another but ultimately it really changes nothing in the terms of direction that this story must take.  The free spirit and the “stuck in a rut” woman are undergoing a change. One that could end badly for all concerned.

The film is ultimately a bit of a downer.   Page, always watchable in whatever project she works in,  gives her survivor role a lost and vulnerable air. She also provides Tallulah with a certain truth, a stubborn belief that everything will work out if one just keeps  slugging away at the problem. And if that does not work, there is always running away.

Margo is angry and resentful of the husband who left her for another man. A writer of relationship books, she has become a bitter introvert. She is a slightly anal older woman who keeps a turtle as a pet. (This choice of pet speaks volumes about author.) But…she wants to care about someone.

Tallulah offers a glimpse into the lives of a few disparate individuals over a couple of days. The ending is quite surrealistic and a tad ambiguous.   It is also one of those tear inducing finales that has one reaching for the tissue box.

The downbeat  finish is not surprising.  This story was never going to end well for anyone, let alone Tallulah.

Page and Janney turn in some brilliant performances and Blanchard is splendid as the alcoholic mother who entrusts her baby to a stranger. It was lovely to see  Uzo Aduba outside of Orange Is the New Black.

Tallulah looks brilliant, the crisp cinematography by Paula Huidobro and the spot on editing by Darrin Navarro enhances the story perfectly.

This film is a 4.5 star production that only loses a half star because of the ambiguity of the ending. Tallulah is streaming on Netflix at the moment and it is definitely worth a look. It will have to be a long one as the running time is just under two hours.

Be advised however that, despite IMDb touting the film as a “Comedy/Drama/Romance” it is ultimately an uncomfortable film to watch. Regardless of this fact it is entertaining.

‘Between’ Canadian Version of ‘The Tribe’ With Jennette McCurdy as Ellen Page

Between Tumblr page header
While at face value Between looks like a Canadian version of the New Zealand cult television series The Tribe, but with Jennette McCurdy as an Ellen Page Juno clone, it is different. Certainly the plot is very similar, an unidentified plague or virus starts killing off the adult population, age 22 up, and only youngsters are left to figure out how to survive.

On another level, just the apparent specificity of the age where the virus hits feels very like the Gone series of books by Michael Grant, but only in this area. There are no signs of mutating teens in this new show.

There is, however, a brilliant modern day touch where teenagers are tweeting one another over their smart phones as they attempt to deal with the sudden deaths of parents, grandparents, and so on. The screen flashes the various hashtags of #prettylake and #staystrong. One message claims quite succinctly that “they r lying to us.”

The series premiere episode, titled School’s Out has Pretty Lake, a small rural community suddenly hit with a string of mysterious deaths. The afflicted all begin drooling blood and then very quickly expire. All the dead are over the age of 21.

One student, Wiley, is heavily pregnant. Her water, as pointed out helpfully by her older sister, is about to break and the younger sister handles her awkward situation with wisecracks and a sort of “gallows” humor. When asked what she’ll do after the baby is born, she replies that she plans on continuing her role of disgraced preacher’s daughter.

By day five, information that is posted regularly via text on the screen shows the death rate has reached the hundreds and is escalating. The Canadian Ministry places Pretty Lake under armed quarantine. Prime Minister Miller, in a special broadcast to the denizens of the town now under lock and key, tells all those involved that it was a hard decision to make.

By the 10th day, the death count is in the thousands and M.I.T. teen Adam, who is also interested in Wiley, has hacked the official government database to learn that no one under the age of 22 has died. Events move forward and by the end of the first episode, Wiley/Juno gives birth, two lads almost get coated with driveway sealer for stealing a truck, Adam may or may not be dead and the inmate, in what seems to be Pretty Lake’s county jail, just misses being executed by another con.

Between may have a bit in common with The Tribe, but in reality, only the idea of minors surviving a plague hitting adults is the same, along with the mysterious cause – not a virus according to the two medical specialists from the Ministry. The show’s use of the Internet and smart phones makes the scenario current and should enable the series a chance at survival.

Former Sam & Cat star McCurdy will have to expand on her Juno act, Ellen Page need not worry about Jennette replacing her in other roles, to keep the audience interested in the new mum of Pretty Lake.

Thus far, the show is fairly interesting, despite the Under the Dome and The Tribe feel to the series. Hopefully this Canadian thriller will do better than the Marley Shelton science fiction series The Lottery which never quite found its audience despite being a brilliant show. Time will tell if Between proves to be interesting enough to find a following.

Jennifer Lopez Honored by GLAAD With Vanguard Award

Jennifer Lopez Honored by GLAAD With Vanguard Award

Jennifer Lopez was honored by GLAAD, and the LGBT community with the Vanguard Award at the 25th annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday. The award was principally for her work as executive producer on the ABC television series The Fosters.


Jennifer Lopez Honored by GLAAD With Vanguard Award

Jennifer Lopez Honored by GLAAD With Vanguard Award

Jennifer Lopez was honored by GLAAD, and the LGBT community with the Vanguard Award at the 25th annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday. The award was principally for her work as executive producer on the ABC television series The Fosters.


Ellen Page Comes out Anne Rice Gets Hostility

Ellen Page Comes out Anne Rice Gets Hostility

When Ellen Page came out on Valentines Day at the HRC hosted Time to Thrive first annual conference for young people of the LGBT community many rushed to lend their support to the 26 year-old Canadian actress; one such supporter was author Anne Rice who got hostility for her words of approval. The 72 year-old American author, who gave new life to vampire fiction and created the character Lestat, posted a message of support on her Facebook page. Rice said that she applauded Page’s courage and that each time a “prominent person” came out, another blow against bullying, bigotry, stereotyping and ignorance occurred.


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