Tallulah: Ellen Page, Allison Janney and Tammy Blanchard Shine in Indie Dramedy

tallulah_2_pageThe indie dramedy, Tallulah, announces the arrival of a talented woman filmmaker, Sian Heder, who uses her TV experience to an advantage in making a femme-driven tale that’s stronger in characterization than in plot.

Reuniting Ellen Page and Allison Janney, Heder has assembled a wonderful cast, dominated by women, which also includes Tammy Blanchard, for which she had written rich and complex figures.

Under her assured helm, all three rise to the occasion, and in the process manage to make unlikable (and unlikely) characters more sympathetic than they have the right to be, considering how unwieldy and structurally messy the plot is.

World-premiering at the 2016 Sundance Film Fest, Tallulah is now being streamlined by Netflix.

tallulah_1_pagePage, in her best role since her Oscar-nominated turn in Juno, plays the title role, a free-spirit vagabond, a dropout from society.  Under some bizarre (and not entirely probable) circumstances, Tallulah finds herself looking after a baby girl, when the child’s mother, Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard), mistakes her for a hotel maid, dumps the kid on her, and leaves for a romantic date.

Finding this indifferent mother unfit, Tallulah impulsively (and not entirely believably) kidnaps the baby, and goes to her boyfriend’s mother, Margo (Allison Janney), a bitter, uptight woman, who hasn’t spoken to her son in years and whose husband has left her.

At first, Tallulah and Margo have nothing to share in common, and it’s one of the script’s weaknesses that their initial encounters conform too much to a variation of the Odd Couple format. Gradually, however, a warmer, more intimate bond evolves between the two women.

Meanwhile, Carolyn, a boozy femme, gets frantic and enlists the police’s assistance in finding her child.

tallulah_3_pageThe women’s shifty and evolving interactions provide the center of the film and the main reason to see it. Without preaching too much, the director suggests the importance of support, comfort, family, and camaraderie in a male-dominated world that is often hostile to women, especially if they are outsiders and do not conform to society’s mainstream norms.

Seder acquits herself more honorably as a director than writer.  However, as a scribe, she has harder time reconciling the fact that, no matter how lonely and likable Tallulah is, she still has committed a crime for which she needs to be held responsible.  If the last reel is problematic, it’s because Seder doesn’t know how to resolve effectively the tale’s moral (and legal) issues, and we feel a letdown observing the inevitable disappointing conclusion.

That said, the movie as a whole is often touching (in moments even heartbreaking) and its humanistic message unmistakable.  Bohemian, loner, eccentric, and strange as she is, Tallulah ultimately “finds” herself, and establishes a firmer grasp of identity, self-worth, and reality through social communication and meaningful bonds with other women.