10 August 2016 | Quinoa1984
Baby crimes and misdemeanors
One nice thing up front: this movie gets how New York City works when it comes to giving tickets (though I don't know if it would've gotten a 'boot', more likely it would've been towed, but I digress).
Tallulah is a prototypical example of an independent film that features two very well known actors (at least to some, I'd think Ellen Page is and Allison Janey may be hit or miss for some, still, even after all these years), and *feels* like a first time Sundance-festival-bound indie film. But it's not necessarily a negative, or something to be wary of, in the case of this story. A lot of that does come down to the actors, and (mostly) realistic reactions to how the story goes into one 'oh s***' moment after another and, again, it comes down to the choices the characters make which can be desperate, foolish, but also for their own good in a way.
Tallulah is wandering from place to place being basically if Juno several years later was a hobo and lost a lot of the snappy dialog (Page in slightly similar attire, though grungier, more "street" to give it obnoxious quotes). Her man friend Nico runs off on her for some reason or another (he wants to go home to his mom, she doesn't want to do that, and during the night he splits - oh, and why he split in the first place is and isn't clear). So she finds his mother's apartment in New York city, she rejects him, and the she ambles about into the Waldwick hotel where she stumbles upon a drunken socialite-dilettante (Tammy Blanchard in a performance that may be overlooked but she gives this blonde dummie a lot more depth than you'd expect, some of that's in the writing). She has a baby, and Tallulah is tasked to take care of her while she's out for the day, thinking she's a housekeeper. Later this blonde lady stumbles drunk into bed, Tallulah feels wrong about leaving a crying baby all alone and kidnaps her.
Good premise and a strong beginning to a story that doesn't give us a protagonist who is necessarily 'likeable' or 'sympathetic' just because we're told to like her. She's complicated, she's lost, she explains later on in the story briefly and just enough so that her faults go back to a place of abandonment (she does turn to Nico's mother, Allison Janey, for help, and she reluctantly agrees making the spine of the movie). What I liked is that the story gives some things to explain motivations for stuff - why Janey's character Margo can't let go of her past relationship which ended in betrayal (oddly enough Janey once again being the 'beard' to a gay man in a marriage like on Masters of Sex) and why Tallulah can't stay still for very long - but the actors are given a lot of room to play with, to find the characters on screen so that we can also relate to them well enough. So when something "quirky" like Tallulah pulling down all of Margo's ex's paintings off the wall to 're-paint' at first seems to turn out badly and then becomes a bonding scene, it works because we can believe these people in it.
In other words, this is a movie that has some light crime-elements to it with the kidnapped baby, maybe in its way a hybrid of a New York intellectual comedy-drama and a slight, a little bit, of neo-noir, and it mostly works if you like Page and Janey (oh and some nice character people like Zachary Quinto as the 'new' guy for Margo's ex, David Zayas and Orange is the New Black's Aduba pop up and the latter even gets some good character motivation, nicely done writer-director Heder). It also has that, um, slightly odd touches that at first are acceptable and then pop up at the very end: floating in a dream can work once, but twice, I'm not so sure. And there are certain story contrivances that do come up, mostly in the last third or act or whatever, and it does make you realize this story's coming to a wrap-up in some ways that do and don't make sense.
But for all of these misgivings Tallulah does function as a quality dramatic film with a few light touches about what it means to have a lack of options or resolve, to really be caught up in existential dilemmas that matter, whether it's having a baby that's not yours to become close with or to let go of a marriage that didn't work when YOU are a writer about marriage (yeah, that's here as a thing). If you asked what I thought I'd say 'I liked it, it has heart, and... that's about it, and it's enough.'