Combustible Celluloid
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With: Janet McTeer, Kimberly J. Brown, Jay O. Sanders, Gavin O'Connor, Laurel Holloman, Lois Smith, Michael J. Pollard, Ashley Buccille, Cody McMains, Linda Porter, Brian Tahash, Josh Carmichael, Dennis Ford, Sara Downing
Written by: Gavin O'Connor, Angela Shelton, based on a story by Angela Shelton
Directed by: Gavin O'Connor
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sensuality and a scene of domestic discord
Running Time: 102
Date: 01/24/1999

Tumbleweeds (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Could Mother

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Gavin O'Connor's Tumbleweeds tells an old, worn-out story. It's so old and worn-out that Hollywood made another movie out of it this year called Anywhere But Here starring Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman. But Tumbleweeds is so well written and acted that it breezes on by before we have a chance to count the cliches. An immature mother, Mary Jo (Janet McTeer) and a mature teenage daughter, Ava (Kimberly J. Brown) hit the road for California, leaving behind an abusive boyfriend. Mary Jo is in a rut and can't seem to find a nice guy who won't turn psycho on her, and Ava is tired of moving around all the time. Of course this time everything will be different, right? Mary Jo meets a truck driver (played by the director) who follows the same pattern. But this time Ava gets a part in the school play, thanks to a nice guy (Jay O'Sanders) at Mary Jo's work. Will Mary Jo find true happiness at last? Well... that's up to you to find out. I've said this once and I'll say it again: it's the little moments that make Tumbleweeds work. The big plot twists are pretty obvious and they don't really affect us, especially the violent scenes with the loser boyfriends, which are shot in a predictable shaky-cam style. But the moments between Mary Jo and Ava just talking are very well done, and we get lost with them. I got so wrapped up that I didn't even mind not seeing Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman. Tumbleweeds will probably appeal more to women (mothers and daughters specifically) but men who get dragged into it might be surprised.

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