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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Tumbleweeds

Starring: Noah Emmerich, Janet McTeer
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: December 1999
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Cody McMains, Gavin O'Connor, Jay O. Sanders, Laurel Holloman, Ashley Buccille, Kimberly Brown, Lois Smith, Michael J. Pollard

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Since TUMBLEWEEDS opened right on the heels of the remarkably similar ANYWHERE BUT HERE, let's make it clear which is which. Both feature likeable mother/daughter buddies who are off to California to make a new life for themselves since the mother is relationship-challenged. Both even feature moms who shop for furniture in the closest trash.

The differences are in the casting and the budget. The more critically acclaimed and obviously lower-budget film is TUMBLEWEEDS. And, whereas everyone knows the stars of ANYWHERE BUT HERE (Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman), few people will have heard of Janet McTeer, known mainly for her stage work, and relative newcomer Kimberly Brown.

Mary Jo Walker (McTeer) feels obligated to leave the state whenever she changes husbands, she's had 4, or boyfriends. This means that she and her 12-year-old daughter, Ava (Brown), named after Ava Gardner, have lived in more states than they can count.

On their way to "sunny San Diego," they are aided by a large, good-looking truck driver, Jack Ranson, whom Mary Jo will eye as a possible number 5. Jack's played by Gavin O'Connor, who is also the producer, director and co-writer (along with Angela Shelton). Mary Jo has an unbounded energy for life. She's a good mother who likes her daughter as much as her men. In a life of constant flux, her daughter provides her only stability.

The slice of life story is remarkably uneventful and rarely compelling. Generally avoiding clichés, the movie's typical scene is Ava's first day at school. In the movies it is de rigueur for the other kids to ridicule any new kids in class. In contrast, Ava is welcomed without fanfare, and the only remark she hears is a kind one, as one girl whispers a compliment about her dress.

Much of the story is quite predictable. As soon as Ava mentions that she hasn't had her first period, you can bet that it will happen during the movie and at an awkward moment.

Qualifying as the picture's strangest episode is the incident at Mary Jo's new place of work in California. Soon after she meets her coworker, Laurie Pendleton (Laurel Holloman), Laurie suggest she join her later for a coffee enema. And she's not kidding. Laurie goes on to detail the joys that coffee enemas can bring.

Finally, showing that it is a hip modern picture, Ava plays Romeo in the school play. Her boyfriend says that he wished he had known that she was trying out for the part. If he had, he would have tried out for the part of Juliet.

TUMBLEWEEDS runs 1:44. It is rated PG-13 for language, sensuality and a scene of domestic discord and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright © 1999 Steve Rhodes

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