Wednesday, September 14, 2016

[Review] Tallulah

Written and directed by Sian Heder, Tallulah is an impressively well-wrought dramedy about a taken baby. As warm as it is poignant, this must-see Netflix Original film highlights a couple of magnificent performances from Ellen Page and Allison Janney (who were daughter and stepmom in Juno).

Tallulah "Lu" (Page) is a young vagrant living out of an old van. One day, she happens upon a neglected toddler and decides to nab her away from her alcoholic mess of a mother (Tammy Blanchard). With no parenting experience (or money), Lu enlists the help of an unlikely subject--her ex-boyfriend's mother Margo (Janney), who's dealing with some problems of her own.

The narrative avoids going the madcap screwball route and anchors itself in a genuinely dramatic tone that still leaves room for a good amount of comedy. As expected, Lu becomes immensely attached the baby. "Isn't she just the weirdest coolest thing you've ever seen?" But of course--heavy conflicts and legal obstacles loom as the "MISSING BABY" headlines begin hitting the news.

Ellen Page is absolutely fantastic in this, immediately embodying Lu with dimension, sympathy, complicated humanity, and a blunt sense of humor. Allison Janney is great too, entering full serious mode--miserable, stressed, and assertive with an underlying soft spot. The two of them shine together on screen as Lu and Margo clash and bond and go through emotional whirlwinds.

Along with diving into a sudden bout of parenthood (like, extremely sudden), Tallulah is a bittersweet display of interesting and richly-developed characters going through hard times and hoping to turn their situations around. In an always pleasant trait, the film even breathes life into the secondary characters, whether it's the apartment doorman (Felix Solis) or the case's social worker (Uzo Aduba, "Orange Is the New Black"). The film has difficulty resolving things and it leaves a couple of loose ends, but sometimes that's the nature of a story like this. In many ways it reminded me of the Oscar-winning South African film Tsotsi.

Anyway, go watch Tallulah. Actually, watch Tsotsi too. Right now.

( 8/10 )

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