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