Boy, Netflix is eager to get their hands in a lot of cookie jars.
Well, whatever, so I caught this title while browsing the selection of movies for the week and decided to check out the trailer… um… as per usual, I suppose. The cast already had me by the wrist. Ellen Page, Allison Janney, sign me up! The plot… well, this movie was definitely going to be something hated or loved. A young woman essentially kidnaps a baby from a really messed up mother and uses it to guilt-trip the mother of her “boyfriend” who stole all her money. Already, I think I have this movie pegged: Page’s character learns the value of life as she gets closer to the mother, the cops show up, and all hell breaks loose. In short… the trailer I saw felt like a condensed version of the movie. Eh… not a good sign. But whatever, performances looked like they’d be pitch perfect, and who knows, maybe this is just a bad trailer. In the end, I just hope it all ties together better than the trailer made it out to be.
What really intrigues me is that this movie’s director is also its writer: Sian Heder. This name may not mean much to the common person, but her work may light up a couple bulbs. She wrote a few episodes of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, probably how she got attached to this film through her connections with Netflix, as well as a couple episodes of the now-cancelled TV show MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE, which I liked. This would, however, mark Heder’s feature-length debut, as her directing résumé consists of two shorts. Well, if she’s helming this project, maybe someone high up in the studio saw something special in her, so I’m open to this film being good… but still cautious. In any case, this is my honest opinion of TALLULAH.
Tallulah (Ellen Page), or “Lu” as she likes to be called, is a homeless girl living in her van with her boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit), living a carefree life. But both lovers seem to want different things out of their lives. Nico wants to go home and see his mother, possibly marry Lu and have kids, but Lu wants to go to India and wants neither marriage nor children. They get into a fight and the next morning, Nico steals all of Lu’s money and disappears. Desperate to find him, she travels back to New York and locates his mother, Margo (Allison Janney). But Margo hasn’t seen Nico in two years and Lu leaves defeated and no money. Sneaking into another hotel for food, she happens across Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard), a mother to her one year old daughter, Madison (twins, Evangeline and Liliana Ellis), whom is horribly neglected and revealed to be almost unwanted by her mother. Thinking that Lu is part of the staff of the hotel, she asks Lu to look after Madison while she goes out to flirt with other men. Lu agrees, but when Carolyn returns, she’s too drunk to care about her crying baby. Unable to bear the thought of leaving the child with the mother, Lu kidnaps Madison and takes her to Margo’s place, passing off Madison as her’s and Nico’s. Margo allows the two to stay and soon, bonds are formed and the police get involved to find Madison.
I am most likely going to be in the minority here, but… this movie meant something to me on a personal level. I’m not even saying that as some sort of art-house critic. No, I’m saying that as someone who relates to this film 100 percent.
Let me tell you something about myself. If you’ve read my bio-page, you probably glanced at the fact that THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is my favorite movie. Bar-none, never have to think about it, it’s that movie. Without getting into too much detail, I saw this movie as a senior in high school back in 2007. It came to me at a point in my life when I was a depressed teenager. Like… suicidal depressed. While the reasons for it are something I can look back on and realistically say that I was a stupid adolescent idiot who took certain things way too seriously, SHAWSHANK’s moral rang loudly in my ears and continues to ring clear: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” I was profoundly changed by that movie. While I still wrestle with my depression every day, SHAWSHANK helped me realize that I could be like Brooks, who’d let his misplacement in this world consume him, or I could be like Red, and continue with my life in the hopes that the next steps I take will bring me happiness. That’s what carries me through this life: never giving up hope.
TALLULAH has a similar effect on me now. This is a story about a young girl who does something that she believes is right. Morally speaking, it’s hard to say how wrong she truly is. If you entered a room with a mother who seemed more interested in having sex and getting drunk than taking care of a baby that’s just barely learning how to walk on her own two feet, wouldn’t your strongest thought be to save this child? But legalities will always hold us back, even if for a brief period, this child would know more caring and nurturing in your own hands than in this… borderline monstrous woman’s that claims to be her mother. But Lu doesn’t care about legalities. Her only thought is to simply help this child that can’t help itself and she takes it. I relate to Lu’s actions more than most people who’ll see this movie might.
I say this because in the very recent past, I also did something similar. Oh no, I didn’t kidnap a child for its protection or anything, nothing quite so dramatic as that. But I did try and help someone, just trying to be a good person and a good friend to someone… only for life to smack me in the face and make me think that I was the bad guy in the end. Because I cared so much for someone, hoping to offer her a better life than the shitty one she was saddled with, I’m the one that the cops come to and tell me that I’m the bad guy in this whole thing. It’s… a long story.
I suppose my love for this movie isn’t necessarily the details within the story and script itself, as film buffs can dissect it and point out every major flaw. Even I can’t deny that Lu’s quirky dialog seems forced at times, and some conversations don’t feel like conversations real people have, but I still feel a deep connection with Lu. I know what it’s like to try and do the right thing, only to be met with judgment and scorn. Like her, I sure didn’t have regrets about the choices I made, and that’s the beauty I see in this story. It was validation that I am not the only one who sees and feels this way: the act of doing what you strongly feel is right, and ultimately told that you were wrong, even if you know you weren’t.
I won’t lie, folks… I cried at the end of this movie. I don’t want to sound like a crazy fanatic, and I really hope that’s not what anyone takes away from my review as this became a very personal thing… but yeah, maybe most of you will see this movie and think it’s just a spiritual successor of JUNO (I mean seriously, it has Page and Janney in a mother-daughter relationship, the joke practically writes itself), but… I think I needed this movie. I needed to know that someone out there, fictional or otherwise, felt as strongly about this as I did.
Miss Heder, I know you will probably never read this review, or may pass it off as some mopey, whiny, pretentious guy’s attempt to hail this movie as the second coming of Jesus, or whatever, but you crafted a story that spoke to me in a way that I can never truly comprehend. I wish I didn’t sound so redundant and could put poetry in my words (exactly how many times have I used the phrase “spoke to me” in this review?), but… I guess you could say this movie left me tongue-tied, or speechless. I can’t decide myself which would be more accurate to say. But… this was a unique and personal experience to watch this movie. What is “high art” but an expressed subject matter that makes someone else think and feel in a unique way that makes them feel better or more enlightened? That’s what this movie did for me.
It made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
My honest rating: 5/5
Possible upcoming reviews:
- BAD MOMS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKCw-kqo3cs
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xg2TSp5tJy4
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELKsrUssyQE
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX1BTiHzq-I