Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FI: Tadpole

US, 2002
Directed by Gary Winick

Tadpole is one in a long line of quirky coming-of-age stories about teenage boys who are too smart for their own good. It's another cinematic cousin of Catcher in the Rye, along the same lines as Igby Goes Down, or The Squid and the Whale in that it's set in NY amongst intellectual-types—though it's probably closer in tone to the sensibilities of something like Charlie Bartlett or Thumbsucker. Here, Aaron Stanford plays Oscar, a cultured young man from a divorced home, who finds girls his own age haven't "lived enough" for his taste. This is largely because he's in love with his smart, vivacious stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver).

Instead of focusing on how Oscar's emotional life must obviously have been severely damaged by his parents' divorce, or seriously questioning the way that everyone treats him as an adult despite his youth, Tadpole plays largely on the surface of things, turning Oscar's inappropriate feelings into fodder for farce. As such, it is largely entertaining, but this may be due to its solid cast (especially Weaver, the great Bebe Neuwirth and the dearly-missed John Ritter) and breezy pacing. And while the film plays out more or less how you would expect, it does take a few strange detours along the way, some of which could have benefited from further fleshing out. At any rate, Tadpole is perfectly fine as a trifle, but if you go in expecting the emotional depth the taboo subject matter seems to promise, you'll probably be disappointed.

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