Reviewing: Tallulah

Well, they’ve done it again.

I really don’t know how Netflix can be so good at what they do. Every time I see something that they’ve created, a little bit more of my faith is restored in the entertainment industry. You can really tell that they actually care about what they are creating. It’s wonderfully refreshing. And Tallulah is no exception.

Tallulah follows the story of a vagabond who lives out of her van with her boyfriend, Nico. But when Nico wants to settle down, Tallulah pushes him away and wakes up to an empty van the next morning. Remembering his plans to return home to New York, Tallulah turns her van to the city where she struggles to scrape by with her lifestyle. While scavenging room-service leftovers in a hotel, Tallulah is shanghaied into babysitting the child of a neglectful, alcoholic mother looking for an affair. When Tallulah realizes the woman, Carolyn, refuses to properly care for her daughter, Tallulah takes action.

However, when she attempts to return the child after watching her overnight, she finds the police have already been called to find her. She then seeks refuge with Nico’s mother Margo, convincing her that the baby is her son’s. Tallulah and Margo begin to build an unusual relationship around Tallulah’s carefree attitude and Margo’s need and desire to let go of her deadened marriage.

First of all, casting for this movie was beyond excellent. I think Ellen Page did a fantastic job as Tallulah. Her good intentions, fear of being tied down and not-giving-a-fuck attitude about life was done so perfectly, and I found myself flashing back to moments in Juno when I first saw Page’s unique brand of character embodiment. Allison Janney was similarly wonderful in delivering that very palpable image of a broken woman struggling to keep herself together but wanting desperately to let go. I think Page and Janney had such wonderful chemistry, although it was quite a stark contrast in the beginning that I was worried the deeper connection wouldn’t happen. But it did, reluctantly.

Tammy Blanchard (Carolyn) was wonderful as her character, although I was so incredibly frustrated with Carolyn I could have reached through the screen and shaken her. In the beginning when Tallulah and Carolyn meet, I had immediate flashes of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. However, the reality of Carolyn’s relationship with her child and why she is in the city quickly gives the entire scene a darker edge. We later learn that her husband is incredibly abusive and I felt a tinge of sympathy for her, but to not give your daughter the appropriate love and attention she needs because of these problems is wrong. And I’m glad the film (somewhat) addressed this issue.

(Also, I was so pleased to see Uzo Aduba in a normal role!)

While the logistics of the movie are very questionable (like, you will find yourself constantly asking, why?), the film has a very wonderful underlying theme about both being needed and needing to be taken care of. First, you have Tallulah, who was abandoned by her mother at a very young age and developed the outlook that she doesn’t need anybody and doesn’t want to be needed by anybody. Yet, she has something in her, an innate drive to take care of this neglected child whom, I’m sure, she sees herself in. In this, I see her attempting to provide what she didn’t have for the baby.

Margo operates in much the same way, although she likes being needed and reluctantly takes in Tallulah and the baby, which is exactly what she needed to help her move on. And then there’s Carolyn, who needs someone to take care of her (or thinks she does) and initially cannot handle being needed by her child. Throughout the search for Tallulah, Carolyn realizes the errors of her thinking and subsequent actions and makes the decision to take on the responsibility of being needed by something so helpless.

Hearing Carolyn say that she wants her daughter, and seeing the desperation and willingness in her eyes, I think gave Tallulah closure from the constant abandonment and rejection she faced her whole life. And although her future seems uncertain at the end, it is certain that she has finally found a person who will take care of her and needs her just as much as she will take care and need the other.

The film manages to deliver such a beautiful message beneath the harsh realities of life and the awful actions of others — that it is okay to need and be needed in a world that constantly pushes you toward independency while simultaneously beating you down.

You must watch this, if for no other reason than to hear Tallulah’s wonderfully, no-fucks-given take on life.

What did you think of Tallulah? What do you think the future holds for Tallulah, Margo and Carolyn? How can social service workers effectively handle families that behave like Carolyn in the real world? Let’s talk.

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