Ellen Page and Allison Janney have history. Well, cinematic history, anyway. The pair are already accustomed to each other’s chemistry in an oddball mother and daughter pairing that is further strained by the appearance of a tiny little one in the spectacular and critically acclaimed indie hit Juno. The defensive step-mother Janney who tears into a sonogram technician who caused offence with her jaded and bitter stance on teen pregnancies for the sake of her “idiot” stepdaughter made us all wish we had a mother (or at least aunt) like her. The jibe from Juno afterwards solidified the pairing’s familial bond and that acting chemistry looks to continue in Netflix Original Movie Tallulah.
The film revolves around the titular free-spirited woman who has bounced across country in her van alongside boyfriend Nico. When he decides that the travelling life is not for him, he absconds back to New York to see his mother. Tallulah follows him and finds that Nico hasn’t returned home and his mother Margo is less than welcoming. On the streets of New York, trying to feed herself on the streets and the passageways of hotels. When a resident confuses her with a babysitting service, Tallulah is appalled by how badly cared for the child is and takes her away from her mother. The pair run into the arms of Margo and the women soon bond over the child.
Tallulah is a quiet and unassuming drama that runs entirely on the gifted actresses that helm it. With Allison Janney moving away from her sarcastic side characters that she is famed for and into a role where her prim, proper, and lonely stance is challenged by her impending divorce and the arrival of the free-spirited titular character. Janney, with little dialogue, opens her character up to the audience piece by delicate piece. So daring is the actresses in the revered nature of Margo that you ebb and wan with her emotions.
Ellen Page is equally as brilliant and her performance is a starling display of survival. Not just barely surviving, but someone surprisingly OK with living off the scraps of the world. The young star achieves palpable emotion even in the first few minutes, allowing us to emotionally relate with her and her struggle. Especially when she takes the young child from an alcoholic and uncaring mother (played really well by Tammy Blanchard.)
The story itself, however, is lacking the depth needed. There is nothing particularly spectacular about the elements though formidably are they strung together. The ideas and themes of redemption are trickling across the surface but they never babble into a deeper exploration of homelessness, motherhood, and friendship. Though the script and dialogue parades
I suppose in its simplicity is where Tallulah flourishes. In a sense that, you shouldn’t focus on what they aren’t saying and what they are. The purity of the movie comes from the chemistry and this is filled with great career highs for both Janney and Page. While that may never settle or transverse past the good intentions, it is still a pretty darn good feature flick about care, devotion, and judgements. With Page and Janney at the core of Netflix’s crude drama, there is enough formidable talent here to enjoy, greatly.
TALLULAH IS AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX NOW!