Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/2/00
1999 (2000) - New Line
review by Dan Kelly of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/C
Specs and Features
102 mins, PG-13, widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full-frame
(1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered, Snapper case packaging, audio
commentary with director/co-writer Gavin O'Connor, theatrical
trailer, cast and crew filmographies, DVD-ROM features (including
Script to Screen screenplay access and the original theatrical web
site), film-themed menu screens, scene access (30 chapters),
languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French, Closed
had the bad fortune of opening just a short while after a movie with
very similar subject matter, bigger names on the marquee and a
distributor with more money. The similarities and comparisons are
inevitable, but on its own, Tumbleweeds
is just as good as Anywhere But Here,
its bigger-budgeted counterpart.
As the story starts, Mary Jo (Janet McTeer) is in a heated argument
with her boyfriend. Her daughter Ava (Kimberly J. Brown), long
familiar with the routine, is in her bedroom packing her belongings.
Together they leave North Carolina, in Mary Jo's old beater of a
car, and head off to California in search of a better life. When
their car breaks down on the highway, a helpful trucker named Jack
(director Gavin O'Connor) offers them a helping hand. A short while
later, Mary Jo has a job as a phone operator at a security company,
her daughter has the lead in the school play and they've moved in
Ava soon starts to realize that Jack, like her mother's other
husbands and boyfriends, may not be the best choice for her. But
Mary Jo is so blinded by her own drive to feel needed by a man that
she doesn't acknowledge what Ava already knows - Jack has a short
temper and is quickly becoming very controlling of the two of them.
He is not necessarily a bad man, but he lets his emotions take over
him so completely, that he becomes a victim of his own weaknesses.
Mary Jo is now forced to confront the reality of her future with
Jack. She wants to run away again, but Ava needs to stay and lets
her mom know this.
Kimberly J. Brown's performance as Ava comes across more like a
child-sized adult than a pre-teen girl. She is very bright and can
pick up on the motivation behind each of her mom's life choices.
Sometimes she can talk to her mom very much like an adult, and is
able to listen attentively when Mary Jo tells her about the joys of
men and sex. Other times, she acts like a kid and does the same
thing her mom does when it comes to confrontation: running away.
Showy performances usually get attention when it comes to awards,
so I was glad to see Janet McTeer's skilled work here get the
recognition it did. She never goes overboard with her piece, and her
mastery of a southern accent rivals Meryl Streep's ability to take
on different brogues. McTeer plays Mary Jo as a complex woman with
very basic needs. She knows what's good and bad for her, but it
sometimes takes her a while to see what's in front of her and what's
passing her by.
There's a very touching scene near the end of the movie where Mary
Jo is helping Ava get ready for her first date. When Ava leaves, she
is alone and stares into the mirror with tears in her eyes. Without
saying a word, her eyes show every emotion she's feeling; a mixture
of longing for the blissful innocence of first finding love and the
sadness of losing her daughter's dependence on her for all her
Tumbleweeds is presented on
DVD in a very strong anamorphic picture. A tidy, dust and
scratch-free print was used and there is no compression artifacting
or any other errors that sometimes occur when transferring celluloid
to a digital medium. The color palette of the movie remains intact
with a strong, vibrant color field. Blacks are appropriately dark
without being overly harsh or blotchy. This is a single-sided disc,
and you can choose widescreen or full frame at the main menu. The
Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix is well balanced and appropriate for
a movie more geared toward dialogue than effects.
New Line included a small, informative set of features on this
disc. First, we get the original theatrical trailer with New Line's
standard anamorphic enhancement. There's also a commentary by Gavin
O'Connor. He has lots to say about the movie, but quite frequently
meanders off the subject as he delves into stories about his
personal life with co-writer Angela Shelton. O'Connor is relatively
new to directing, and many times he comes across as needlessly
unsure of his directing skills. He is quick to point out mistakes he
and his crew made in the film. Brief filmographies and the movie's
script on the DVD-ROM complete the disc's features.
Multiple award nominations for Janet McTeer's spirited performance
didn't help Tumbleweeds at the
box office. I only hope it doesn't get brushed aside in the home
video market the way it did in theatres. This is a winning portrait
of a strong mother/daughter relationship that I think will hold up
to multiple viewings. Great chemistry between Janet McTeer and
Kimberly J. Brown and a good, if slightly formulaic, script help to
make Tumbleweeds one of the
more engaging films of 1999 and a great addition to your DVD