"Tanner Hall" was a film I heard nothing about before seeing it listed on the Gen Arts website. After seeing it listed on their website, I decided to research and see who was in it and the basic premise. After reading the plot, seeing who was in the film, and then hearing it was premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, it peaked my interest enough to want to see it. I decided to attend the east coast premiere of "Tanner Hall" at the Gen Art Film Festival in NYC on Monday April 12, 2010 and this is my thoughts on the film.
The basic plot of "Tanner Hall" focuses on four girls at a private boarding school in New England. Two of these girls have been friends since childhood and the other two are just friends from the school. Together they share their feelings and emotions in a coming of age tale that you will soon forget as soon as you leave the theater...
I really wish I didn't have to be so harsh on this film especially since I saw it at a festival with most of the cast sitting around me but truth be told I really did not like this film at all. In a world where coming of age films are a dime a dozen, a writer or director need to make a film that really stands out from the others. That's where "Tanner Hall's" problem begins as there is nothing even remotely new or interesting about this film. When watching independent coming of age story you are expecting something deeper and more powerful. We do not get that at all. What the audience gets is such a lackluster story with a lot of one-dimensional characters and lack of emotion.
I think the main problem lies on the writing, which is just awful. The characters in this film are all stereotypical and one dimensional. You have the horny teacher, the cheating husband, the slutty school girl, the depressed school girl, the love confused school girl, and of course the sexually confused school girl. None of these characters are written with much depth. I feel bad saying it since it was written and directed by two friends Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana Von Furstenberg who seemed extremely passionate about the film. To me everything from the story to the stereotypical characters to the lack of character development is what really hurt this film. I felt maybe if these two passionate ladies didn't write the film but direct it or maybe vice versa it would have been a lot better.
The other issue I had was some of the actors...I don't know who's idea it was to put Chris Kattan in this film but man was he awful. This guy can barely pull off a comedy routine and this is coming from someone who somewhat enjoyed "Corky Romano" (yes I know it's a bad film...but I laughed for some reason) and they put him in a movie like this as the subtle comic relief. It just doesn't work. Also, why is Amy Sedaris in this film? What a useless role for her? She is such a gifted funny woman and in this film I just can't wait for her scene to end. Maybe it's just that the comedy aspect the directors/writers were trying to convey didn't fit the tone of the film.
As for the rest the primary cast, they all did "alright" in their roles based on what the script had to offer. Brie Larson plays basically the same role she plays on "The United States of Tara" but as I said its all the script asked of her. Rooney Mara does alright as well although I think she has more potential than this movie let on. She was really good in "Youth in Revolt," which was a good coming of age story. Georgia King should just be deemed the queen of boarding school films because if you look at her resume, she has done so many. I don't really think she did much in her role nor did I find much effort was needed to play the character. Amy Ferguson did an OK job as the sexual confused girl. And lastly, Tom Everett Scott also known as "that guy" does not offer anything at all to the film. His character is not only dull and poorly written but probably the least developed out of all the characters.
Bottom Line: "Tanner Hall" felt uninspired, long, boring and most importantly it did nothing to capture the audiences attention. I know I am just one person and it's only my opinion but being a film lover I have to say I seen better and by better I mean a lot better. I usually enjoy coming of age films and can name several good ones including "Thirteen," "Lost & Delirious," and "Emperor's Club" just to name a few. This genre especially ones that focus on boarding schools are not normally the subject to much appeal, not even in the independent film world. I hate to say it but there really isn't anything that made this film even remotely memorable. I do however feel both Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana Von Furstenberg are very passionate people and I really wish them much success in the future. I hope "Tanner Hall" is just the speed bump in their careers because it's just a coming of age snooze fest from start to finish.
MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Tanner Hall" is a 3 out of 10.
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