Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tanner Hall (DVD Review)

DVD Review of the boarding-school set coming of age drama Tanner Hall starring Rooney Mara, Georgia King, Brie Larson & Amy Ferguston
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Image Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment

Writers/Directors: Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini - feature film directorial debuts
Cast: Rooney Mara, Georgia King, Brie Larson, Amy Ferguston, Shawn Pyfrom, Amy Sedaris, Chris Kattan, Tom Everett Scott
USA, 2010

Reason to see: I'm always up for a female ensemble-cast coming of age film

Set in a New England boarding school, Tanner Hall follows Fernanda (Rooney Mara of ... and the upcoming US Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and her group of friends as they enter their senior year of school. Of course there is trouble and shenanigans to be had by the group, not so much by Fernanda and artist buddy Lucasta (Amy Ferguston), but more so by friends like the flirtatious Kate (played by the fearless Brie Larson) who constantly culls the attention of the one male teacher at the school. The spirit of all of the girls is really in an exploration to find themselves by gently pushing the boundaries of the contained world around them, while always having their own friendships to fall back on for support as well as laughs & tears.

Things start to get a little more real with the arrival of Fernanda's childhood friend, or more succinctly daughter of her mothers friend, Victoria (Georgia King) who brings her own demons and furious energy that unbalances the good trouble of the group into potentially bad trouble but adding a layer of deception, playing favourites, invoking jealously and all of the not-so-nice things that can happen between friends. But what I loved about the film was that it really did show an interesting, layered viewpoint of female friendships at this age, when so many things are changing and people are pushing the boundaries & exploring their own power as they come into their own. I loved how it finessed the layers of grey, the mistakes and mishaps be they serious or subtle they always felt real with a great sense of emotional rawness.

The young cast does a great job portraying the girls on the verge of womanhood and although it's a school setting as opposed to camp, I couldn't help but be reminded by the classic coming of age film Little Darlings, as they both show old friends and new trying relationships and the messy, emotional jumble that happens when they collide. I loved that you can feel that it's a story from a female perspective, and it's exciting to see more female voices in films out there. I will look forward to seeing what else co-writers/co-directors (and best friends!) Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini have up their sleeves.

DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with writers/producers/directors Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini on the themes & bond of friendship (and how they are the two directors are both friends & met at school), the music, the locations, casting process including people who actually auditioned for different parts, the complex portrayal of multiple emotions at once, folkloric touches in the film, working with Rooney Mara in her first leading role, the incredible improving between Amy Sedaris & Chris Kattan, the theme and analogy of midlife crisis to coming of age, explanation of the absence of extras, the tonal shifts & how they work with the ensemble cast, shooting sequences, how they aligned the filming experience for the actors to mimic the themes of the film, lots of shout outs to filming in Providence, the stories and anecdotes from the film that are from their own lives, making a film about adolescence and the complicated nature of everything at that time, how amazing & trusting the actresses are, the creative efforts made as the film was low budget and the complicated emotions & relationships in the film.
  • Trailer
Tanner Hall is available on DVD as of December 13, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'd watch it again
I strongly recommend it fans of coming of age films & films centred on friendships, especially between girls

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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