Tumbleweeds (1999) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
73 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
An unoriginal premise made good by the writing and performances
bob the moo13 April 2004
Mary Jo Walker is constantly on the road. She moves from state to state as one relationship ends and she heads out looking for another. Her daughter is used to the unsettled lifestyle but starts to feel at home in her new school once she gets a lead role in the school play. Mary Jo gets herself a job and a new boyfriend, trucker Jack, however how long will it be before problems put her on the road again?

As a concept, this film lacks originality - the plot and the characters will be recognisable from other films, but that in itself is not a bad thing as nothing is ever totally unique (well, rarely). That said, this film still manages to be enjoyable and engaging thanks to a well written script that gives us characters and not caricatures combined with some very good performances to deliver them. The story relies heavily on the characters and this really does a good job of bringing those out to the strength of the film. It struggles towards the end with a bit of sentimentality that betrays what has gone before but mostly it is pretty true to itself.

The writing allows Mary Jo to be a complex character but yet one that we can understand and sympathise with even if we can't empathise. Likewise her relationship are real rather than just being one-dimensional - with Jack we can easily see the major problems between them but we can also see what drew them together. This works because the film has the cast to deliver these characters well. McTeer was Oscar nominated for this film and she deserved t hat at least. Her thunder was stolen a year or so later by Roberts' doing a similar performance but in a bigger film (thus more kudos). She is very good and she made the film. Brown is just as good and isn't the `cute kid' that can kill movies. Sanders has the worst role and he knows it - his white knight threatens the whole film but it is not his fault. O'Conner gets the triple by being good as Jack as well as doing the business with directing and writing.

Overall, I wasn't sure if I'd like this film as generally the genre doesn't always do it for me, but here the performances really bring a well written script to live. It doesn't quite know what to do with itself towards the end and risks it's integrity a bit but mostly it is very good and worth seeing.
15 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Some very fine performances and a story that isn't too corny make this an enjoyable movie
philip_vanderveken21 July 2005
I must admit that I didn't really look forward to this movie. I mean, a movie with a story about a mother and daughter on the run for an abusive husband, is there a bigger cliché in the history of Hollywood? I really don't think so. This is the stuff bad TV-movies, which have only one intention and that is to make the average housewife cry her eyes out, are made of. I only gave it a try because I didn't have much better to do and was only thinking about watching the first 15 minutes, just in order to be sure that it was one of the many. But guess what, I finished it. That already says it all, but for those who are interested, I'll also explain why I liked it.

Every time her relationship fails, Mary Jo Walker runs from town to town and from state to state with her 12 year old daughter. And every time she promises herself and her daughter that everything will be different this time. Now she will look for a decent man who will love them forever. They decide to go to San Diego. But before they get there, their car breaks down and they need the help of a trucker to fix it. Mom immediately sees a new candidate husband in him, but her daughter already sees what is about to happen. He's the same kind of guy as always, mom will fall in love again and tell that this one is different, but will end up running from him like she has always done. And indeed, that's the way it happens, but this time Ava, doesn't want to leave anymore. She has made friends at school and will soon act in a school play...

Even though this movie was rather predictable and far from original, I admit that I had a good time watching it. The story isn't the reason why I liked it so much, although it could have been a lot worse. The fact that Ava wasn't the 'cute and lovely' kid who will bring her mother on the right track again by organizing a romantic date with a great man sure had a lot to do with the fact that I still enjoyed the story. But in the end it's still the acting that really did it for me. Janet McTeer was really excellent as the runaway mom and together with Kimberly J. Brown, who played Ava, she formed an excellent team.

Overall this is a nice movie that sure is a lot better than what I expected. Yes, I even liked it and no I'm not a middle-aged housewife. It just wasn't too corny and had some very fine performances to offer. That's also the reason why I give this movie a rating in between 7/10 and 7.5/10.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Twister Looking for a Target.
tfrizzell5 July 2005
A Southern woman (excellent Oscar nominee Janet McTeer) leaves an abusive relationship and hits the road with her young daughter (Kimberly J. Brown) looking for the man of her dreams. Of course though McTeer's dreams are foggy and incoherent when it comes to the opposite sex. She has a love affair with a moronic trucker (director Gavin O'Connor), finds friendship with co-worker Jay O. Sanders and dodges advances from old perverted boss Michael J. Pollard. Shades of Martin Scorsese's "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" as this is basically a road trip picture for the fairer sex. McTeer is amazing and totally believable as an American from the wrong side of the tracks (she is a classically-trained Brit in reality). The quirky situations and hilarious moments make up for the picture's helter skelter screenplay and prodding tone. 4 stars out of 5.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
What an introduction to Janet McTeer--her charisma cannot be contained!
Terena-316 May 2000
I urge all film lovers to see -Tumbleweeds-. The relatively unknown cast, director and screenwriter(s) blew me away! This film is a gift of fantastic proportions wrapped in plain, brown paper, so tear into it and see what's awaiting you beyond the simple plot of serial-monogamist mother and almost-fully-teenaged daughter fleeing the scene of yet another bad breakup, and heading West to find a new home. I was gripped by Janet McTeer's powerful performance, and unusual character, from the first scene. I cannot imagine anyone not being similarly bowled over. The supporting cast will also surprise and delight you--why can't all young actors be as natural as Kimberly Brown? Rent it today! :-)
19 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The film's upbeat nature may strike some as false, yet the giddy handling in general is persuasive...
moonspinner559 October 2011
British actress Janet McTeer gives a convincing, first-rate performance as a Southern woman and man-lover who can't find a good guy to love. She and her preteen daughter drive from one state to the next, lighting in a motel room somewhere until a local romance blooms--and then high-tailing out of town when it predictably blows up. Soon after arriving in Southern California, McTeer's Mary Jo Walker finds a decent job, begins making friends, and sees her daughter excelling in school for the first time; however, a new relationship with a sexy but volatile trucker may put everything on the rocks. What starts out as a generic road movie--with hints of "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" besides--becomes an absorbing, intimate character portrait. McTeer (who resembles Laurie Metcalf) isn't your typical tramp or "lover of life"; she isn't unstable, and she's a good mother, but what she's trying so hard to get (a husband and a real home) doesn't always respond to her in kind. We see Mary Jo trying her damnedest to make her life work, eventually falling into familiar patterns but this time learning from her mistakes. The finale is rose-colored and probably not credible, but the optimistic nature of Gavin O'Connor's screenplay (co-written with Angela Shelton), as well as his perceptive direction, makes the journey a fun, embraceable ride. **1/2 from ****
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Familiar tale told well
SKG-25 January 2000
In "Join Together," the Who sang, "It's the singer, not the song/That makes the music move along," and that can be true of certain kinds of movies as well. TUMBLEWEEDS is surely not the first mother/daughter film ever made, even this year. I haven't seen ANYWHERE BUT HERE yet(though the novel it was based on is quite good), but TUMBLEWEEDS distinguishes itself from the crowd by its attention to detail and character, and the performances. Director/co-writer(with ex-wife Angela Shelton) Gavin O'Connor makes San Diego come alive, from the office Mary Jo(Janet McTeer) works in, to the beach, and the small houses she and her daughter Ava(Kimberly Brown) end up living in. And except for perhaps Mary Jo's boss(well-played by Michael J. Pollard), who is a caricature(albeit a funny one), every character here is well drawn. Even Jack(O'Connor), the trucker Mary Jo ends up with in San Diego who later turns bad, is well-drawn; we're never meant to see him as completely bad, though he does have his darker side.

But the real reason to see this is the performances of the two leads. McTeer and Brown are fresh faces to movie audiences, which means they have no image to distract us from the story, but it also means they bring nothing we know from them to the part, so they have to start fresh. And they respond with wonderful and realistic performances. McTeer doesn't turn Mary Jo into the stereotype of an oversexed woman or the insufferably noble mother but as a woman who wants to do right but isn't always sure how. And Brown doesn't make Ava overly cute or precocious, but a recognizable kid who nevertheless has to be the adult at times. The two of them also have a terrific bond together as well, and like a character late in the film they meet, O'Connor the director knows enough not to intrude on that.

One last note; some comments have dismissed this entirely because it's familiar. Are you the same people who will gladly see a hundred SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE clones or THE MATRIX clones and not complain about them being familiar? As I said at the top, sometimes the telling can distinguish a familiar tale.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Pleasant Surprise
davidholmesfr31 January 2003
The premise of a film about a mother and 12 year-old daughter on the road is not necessarily attractive to everyone. But this was a refreshing example of the genre, mainly because the director allowed character development. Mother and daughter have characteristics both endearing and infuriating (like all of us; something that Hollywood so often forgets) and, as a result, we're not forced to take sides with one against the other. Rather we find ourselves looking out for opportunities for them to both lead a more stable existence. Inevitably in a film of this nature there must be a great temptation to play on sentimentality and help boost Kleenex sales. But fortunately that doesn't happen; in fact the only tearful moment comes from one of the male characters recounting the loss of his wife. The two leads react well to each other, something which was essential for the film to work.

An entertaining approach to the genre for which the viewer doesn't have to suspend rationality.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Wonderfully involving...
boolamoola22 November 2003
The other review of this film misses the point entirely. There is indeed tension, of the emotional variety, between daughter and mother. The child is the adult and the adult is child-like. One always hopes for the mother to make the right decision, to turn her and her daughter's life around. The performances are of the highest caliber, as is the writing, and the direction complements both beautifully, never getting in the way of the simple story. Watch this with a parent, a son, a daughter...a rewarding viewing experience.
12 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A script would have helped this clunker
wisewebwoman23 July 2000
I had heard and read great stuff about this flick and was flabbergasted at how disappointed I was, even at Janet McTeer's performance. I saw nothing attractive at all in the premise of the film - yet another "road pic" (and always to California, why not Alaska, South Carolina, British Columbia). The instability of the mother underlying the insecurity of the daughter, the daughter mothering the mother ( and where oh where are the fathers of these children ?). Completely predictable from start to finish, down to the kid finding Mr. Right ( I mean can't you see how THAT would end) and the thigh slapping humour of feminine products plastered to all parts of the anatomy. Very disappointing.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An underrated, highly impressive piece of work that everyone should check out!
mattymatt4ever10 July 2001
There are some character studies about simple people who live simple lives, yet you just sit there captivated, engaged, anxious to see what happens next. "Tumbleweeds" is one of those films. It moves along on the simple energy of these two offbeat characters Angela (Janet McTeer) and Ava (Kimberly Brown). The vivid characters are fueled by engaging performances by English actress McTeer (who pulled off a Southern accent with flying colors) and newcomer Brown (who's so adorable and resembles a young Mena Suvari). They live bumpy lives. The mother can't keep a stable job, nor a stable husband, and the daughter has to deal with the agony of watching her get dumped by one lousy guy after another. She never gets the chance to have a father figure in her life, and her free-spirited mother is the only one to give her any guidance. The main characters are flawed but extremely likable, and director O'Connor (who also plays one of Angela's beer-guzzling boyfriends) paints us an interesting portrait, bringing us on a wild ride through this Tennessee mother/daughter team's nomadic lifestyle.

The supporting cast is superb as well. Aforementioned O'Connor is great as the sleazy boyfriend. Michael J. Pollard is also appropriately sleazy as her boss. Of course, Pollard has that naturally sleazy quality about him, and he doesn't really need to try. The film is hilarious, yet moving. It's a vivid character study that will keep you laughing and thinking alike, and I feel it's really a priceless piece of work, composed of unknown actors and a low budget. Eat your heart out, "Pearl Harbor"!

My score: 9 (out of 10)
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
McTeer is phenomenal!
Johnboy-78 December 1999
Janet McTeer's multi-faceted performance makes this otherwise predictable character study a must-see for serious acting buffs. As a native Southerner, I have suffered through more hideous attempts at Southern accents than I care to remember, but McTeer nails the accent right down to the complicated vowel sounds and makes it seem utterly natural. The story runs out of gas in the final third, and the "Winnebago ex machina" element comes out of left field, but why quibble? McTeer is absolutely phenomenal, bringing far more complexity to the role than is written on the page.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Janet McTeer is an underrated actress
lee_eisenberg11 September 2017
I first heard of Gavin O'Connor's "Tumbleweeds" when star Janet McTeer received an Academy Award nomination for her role therein (it was also the first time that I'd ever heard of her). Unfortunately, the movie didn't get a wide release, so I didn't get a chance to see it. Now that I've finally seen it, I recommend it. A woman fleeing an abusive relationship is a common theme in cinema (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, This Boy's Life) but I liked the complexity of McTeer's character; she may be a hick, but she's one who stands up for herself. It's one of the more hard-hitting movies that you'll see.

Along with this, I hope that Janet McTeer receives more recognition in the coming years. She was particularly good in "Songcatcher", where she played a woman who records the music of people in Appalachia (she more recently appeared as Winston Churchill's wife in the HBO movie "Into the Storm").

All in all, a fine movie. Not a masterpiece, but still one of the many movies from 1999 that showed cinema taking a new, gritty direction (American Beauty, Being John Malkovich, Election, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense).
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Insubstantial if well-acted comedy
Chris_Docker27 March 2000
Likeable but insubstantial comedy about a mother and daughter bonding as the mother goes from one relationship to another. A few moments of genuine comedy, such as when she quits her job and calls the boss for everything, or instructs her daughter on the art of kissing (using an apple as a prop) or has knockabout fun demystifying sanitary towels. Ultimately the woman is such a dedicated empty head though that no real man would bother long anyway, so her story lacks pathos.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Story Story Story
Theo Robertson12 March 2005
Janet Mcteer is from the North east of England . I feel I should point this out because the people there talk with a very recognisable brogue that is in many cases totally unintelligible to the human ear . So the fact that an actress from that region of Britain was Oscar nominated in a role as a trailer trash mom called Mary Jo Walker should tell you how convincing her accent and over all performance is . Kimberly Brown as her daughter Ava is almost as good

I thought I'd just mention TUMBLEWEEDS good aspects first then mention that I intensely disliked this movie because it's totally low concept and ignores the three most important rules for writing an entertaining screenplay

Rule 1 : Story

Rule 2 : Story

Rule 3 : Story

This movie revolves around Mary Jo moving home with her daughter every time a relationship fails and we're shown a long endless list of talky scenes where nothing much happens all directed in a hyper realistic fly on the wall documentary style by Gavin O Connor . I should be charitable and say that this is no doubt a film that will appeal to moms and that's who it's marketed for which is why I didn't give it a much lower mark . If you're a 38 single male you'll find it an ordeal to sit through . You've been warned
5 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not a must-see movie from 1999, unless you are curious about Janet McTeer's Oscar nomination.
the amorphousmachine8 February 2019
I actually watched this film on Youtube, and it's yet another film that is extremely hard to find on DVD etc in my country, so it's basically a movie that no one has really seen. 'Tumbleweeds' got on my radar due to the Oscar nominated performance Janet McTeer, and that performance is exceedingly good and worthy of a nomination. Kimberly J. Brown who plays the daughter in this film is also worth mentioning as an excellent performance as essentially McTeer and Brown hold the movie together. This movie a mother/daughter bonding movie, directed by Gavin O'Connor (Warrior, The Accountant) who also has a role in the film. 'Tumbleweeds' feels like a low-budget TV movie with Gavin O'Connor yet to perfect his storytelling and craft, but the performances from the two leads hold this movie together. The mother is careless and the daughter is precocious yet they both prove to be realistic characters and mostly likeable. As someone pointed out the comparison to 'Anywhere But Here', which is of the same year and same ilk, 'Tumbleweeds' is the better film by a mile, simply because the characters are actually likeable.

'Tumbleweeds' is worth watching if you want to see Oscar-nominated performances or are into low-budget indie movies, or curious about where Gavin O'Connor started. Other than that, it's perfectly miss-able too! It simply not must-see though.

Considering it's budget and performances; ***½ out of *****!
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
How do the director, producer, and writer sleep at night?!?!
mikehamilton1 April 2001
Sorry for the long review, but I can't remain quiet on this one! Please read on to save yourself from pain!

This is just one of the poorest examples of American film! From the moment that the viewer is unfortunate enough to hit the "play" button on the DVD player (or VCR) he/she is subjected to HORRIBLE acting, fake southern accents the likes of which have not been heard in years, interaction between characters completely devoid of any form of relationship norms, and characters that don't even belong in the film.

How dare the director think us viewers completely stupid enough to think that when in the beginning of the film they are driving through "Kentucky", when it is clearly a desert! (the Southern California Desert to be exact). Then they arrive in "Missouri" which is obviously filmed just outside LA. Their entire drive across the country for the first extremely tedious 25 minutes is through Southern California! What garbage - the director and producers should be ashamed! I was appalled!

Next the scenes are ridiculous, the characters that show up have no relationship to what is going on and the end is just INANE! How could a broke, jobless, loser like this woman have enough furnishings for a large house?!?!?!?! This is just unrealistic at best. Why many of the characters even were brought into the film is beyond me! And HELLO - a Coffee Enema?!?!?! What was that put in the film for?!?!?! Please....I kept watching through the whole film just to see how much more ridiculous and far fetched this film could get! I laughed for nearly the entire length of the film!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I also was completely embarrassed for the director and actors! How could they actually release this film and sleep at night!!!!!!!!!??????! I want my money back for the rental!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Awful, Awful, Awful - I gave it 2 out of 10 and I was being more than generous! Save yourselves the anguish! I don't understand these people who said it was brilliant - obviously you haven't been exposed to quality films in your life time!
7 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
apocalypse later9 December 1999
The creaky title metaphor is about the most creative thing going on in this pretentiously "edgy" tale of an irresponsible mother coming of age with the help of her preternaturally self-possessed daughter (yawn!). The utterly bogus "natural" acting and hand-held camerawork are sure to win awards and offend John Cassavettes fans everywhere. Pathetic.
6 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Predictable and uninteresting
hejsamester3 August 2008
This is one of the most predictable movies I have ever seen. From the first time we meet each character everyone who have just seen a couple of dramas before this one, will be able to tell their exact part of the story, and why the character is in it. The story itself is so classic and worn out that it almost hurts. Again, you can foretell everything in it - nothing new here at all, not even a new type of character or interesting side plot.

I guess the movie's audience is housewives in souther USA, and it might hit that target group pretty well. But to all others: Stay away, you got better things to spend the time on.

A waste of time, and I guess I can only blame myself for watching the whole thing because I was too lazy to put on a DVD instead.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
hackneyed plot bouyed by great performances
Buddy-5128 May 2000
In `Tumbleweeds' we're back on the road again with yet another single mother and her disgruntled offspring as they search for love and stability in places unknown and settings unfamiliar. Following in the footsteps of `Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore,' `Mermaids,' `This Boy's Life' and countless other films of that ilk, `Tumbleweeds' rarely strays from the tried-and-true narrative formula of the genre, yet thanks to two superb performances by its lead actresses and a quality of naturalism in its writing and directing, the film manages to be at least perpetually watchable if not exactly compelling.

The film starts off with a harrowing scene of domestic violence that neatly defines the tenor of Mary Jo Walker's life and character. Fatally attracted to abusive losers, Mary Jo decides to pick up and leave her current no-good boyfriend and head out with her daughter, Ava, to erase the past and start life afresh. We discover that this is indeed the pattern of her life and her daughter, driven into rootlessness as a result, seethes with a resentment that flairs up periodically in outbursts of rage and anger. Finally settling on San Diego as their new Eden, the two wayfarers attempt to settle in and begin a new life for themselves. However, lifelong patterns die hard and Mary Jo is soon shacking up with yet another time bomb in the form of a trucker she has met earlier on the road, much as the ever-wise Ava predicted. Waiting in the wings, of course, is the one man who could truly make Mary Jo happy – the paragon of male sensitivity who works right there in the office with her – if only she could see past the sexual energy of the brutish scum that so invariably attract her.

`Tumbleweeds' pretty much does what it can, saddled as it is with such a derivative concept. The feeling of déjà vu generated by the predictability of the proceedings is alleviated somewhat by the shattering performances of Janet McTeer and Kimberley J. Brown who never hit a false note in their portrayals of two well-meaning souls struggling with a less-than-ideal situation and life. They are matched by Jay O. Sanders, as Mary Jo's newest love interest, who brings a subtlety to a role that could easily have slid into two-dimensional villainy. Instead, Sanders keeps his character's violent tendencies seething just beneath the surface, flaring out only at key moments. Yet, somehow, even at such times, he manages to maintain a certain strange quality of understandable sympathy; we sense he is a man who strikes out more from petulance and frustration than cruelty and malice. Either way, he is a much more interesting character than the bland, sappy dolt that she – again, true to the formula – ultimately ends up with.

Screenwriter Angela Shelton and co-writer/director Gavin O'Connor display a nice ear for naturalistic dialogue and O'Connor allows his actors to establish just the proper rhythm to make their interactions believable and real. Far more than anything else, this is definitely an actor's film.

This is why the upbeat ending of the film, where all the loose ends are tied together at a middle school production of `Romeo and Juliet,' (in which Ava naturally has a starring role!), is such a disappointment, completely betraying, as it does, the realistic tenor of much of the rest of the film. In a similar vein, the film also suffers from an over abundance of coincidental meetings that likewise undercut the film's crucial quality of credibility. Particularly mind boggling is the reunion Mary Jo has in a bar in San Diego with a hunky truck driver she met on a highway in Kentucky. Small world indeed!

`Tumbleweeds' stands in the shadows of some pretty impressive earlier films and, as a result, it never becomes of more than passing interest. Yet, for the performances of the two tumbleweeds at its core as well as several other elements of quality, this is a film that deserves some attention.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's Been Done Before, But Probably Not This Well
FiendishDramaturgy23 May 2007
Let me begin by saying that this is yet another brilliant performance contributed by Kimberly J. Brown. That girl is something special! This is a rather common dramatic vehicle in which doomed relationships encourage a single mother to repeatedly relocate, dragging her daughter in tow. What is different about this attempt is the writing and the performance quality. The direction, perhaps, but I'm more inclined to give most of the credit to the two aforementioned factors.

All in all? It is entertaining. Much more so than others of this venue, yet it is brash and occasionally raucous, and will be considered by some to be socially unacceptable, especially the private scenes between the mother and daughter. But I liked it.

It rates a 7.8/10 from...

the Fiend :.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
clydefrogg28 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
There are spoilers in this review, so don't read it if you haven't seen it.

As with almost every film ever made involving a road trip across the country, The Tumbleweeds choose to drive along empty two lane backroads instead of our wonderful interstate system. These groan inducing scenes at the beginning set the tone for the whole film.

Janet McTeer and Kimberly Brown are The Tumbleweeds, a snappy white trash mother daughter duo who have apparently spent their lives running from whatever wife-beater wearing, Coors Light drinking scuzzball Mom has been shacking up with. This time, however, we know things are going to turn out differently, because The Tumbleweeds are not going from West Virginia to Georgia, or Kentucky to Mississippi, but instead, are headed to California. As Ebert pointed out, California is always the destination of choice in films where troubled Americans head to solve all their problems. Why going to California didn't occur to Mom after the ending of any one of her previous four marriages is an unexplained mystery of the film.

Of course, Mom and Daughter have a great, loving relationship throughout their travels. Their loving relationship, though, has been permeated by the "liberal grossisms" perpetuated by Hollywood over the last decade. You know, the kind of stuff you never would have seen in a film like this ten years ago. Mom and Daughter passing gas in a roadside restaurant, and laughing and giggling about it afterwards. And when the car "is out of water" (Diagnosis: Daughter), Mom comments "I should have saved my piss." Mix those new cliches with old tired ones, like Daughter wanting her "ta-tas" to grow bigger faster and Mom teaching Daughter the proper way to kiss, and you've already ran the gamut.

But, wait! The groaning has just begun! While mulling over the fact that the car "is out of water", the Marlboro Man (a truck driver played by the director, Gavin O'Connor) comes to the rescue. He, of course, fixes it, and the gals are on their way. I don't know exactly where the breakdown occurs, but it is in the middle of the desert, far from San Diego, the Tumbleweeds' destination. As improbable as it may sound, Mom runs into the Marlboro Man again at a San Diego dive bar a few weeks later. He, of course, becomes the man du jour, and along with Mom's new stereotypical job as a clerk in a small business office (complete with small, sexist jerk boss), provides new opportunities for you to practice your groaning.

Meanwhile, Daughter hits the ground running. She starts at a new school the day after they get there (?????!!!!), has no problem fitting in right away, meets a new best friend, a new boyfriend, gets to play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, and forms a special bond with a "nice guy" who I'm sure she'd rather see her mom with than Mr. Marlboro.

Gavin O'Connor, despite the fact that he wrote and directed a bad movie, is actually the best part of the film, as an actor. The fact that he's supposed to be playing Mom's scuzzball du jour is all the more perplexing to the film, because he really doesn't seem like that bad of a guy. He's generally nice to the Tumbleweeds, and throughout the film, only loses his cool a little bit, never to the point of being mean, and every time after he's been agitated by Mom or Daughter. Even the "final straw", Daughter refusing to put her Romeo and Juliet script away while the trio are having a celebratory dinner for his new job, and Him making a scene in the restaurant is really not that bad. Throughout the film, I was almost thinking that the script called for Mom and Daughter to do and say everything they can to piss the poor guy off until he couldn't take it anymore, then they'd leave him too. O'Connor's Marlboro Man does a good job of keeping his cool throughout, despite the Tumbleweeds best efforts to set him off. The confusing part of all this is that they either should have made the Man a real jerk throughout, or had some sort of reconciliation in the end. The middle road doesn't make sense.

Other scenes in the film seem to have been put in just to stretch the length. Either that, or it seems like scenes or sequences that should be there are not. The "nice guy" almost seems to be in a different film than Mom. Mom quitting her job just seemed like one more opportunity for McTeer to act like an immature ass. After one prior scene showing Mom working with flowers and visiting a nursery, there's a scene where she goes and begs the proprietor for a job, and gets it. Then, it is forgotten for the remainder of the film. In one scene, Daughter tries out for Juliet in the play. In the next, she refers to her "ex-best friend", who was also trying out for the play. A few scenes later, they are best friends again, like nothing ever happened. The film has serious continuity problems.

I could get really nitpicky and belittle things like the cost of living in San Diego. Mom and Daughter come to California with little or no money, and by the end, on a job that probably pays Mom about 11 dollars an hour, have a year lease on a San Diego house that in reality, probably costs at least 1000 a month. Rent and housing bills would take up her entire check. It's absurd, but I won't dwell on it, or the fact that a girl with a horrible Southern accent would get to play Romeo in a school play.

This film came out around the same time the very similar Anywhere But Here did, so comparisons are inevitable. Anywhere was not very good, either, but Natalie Portman almost singlehandedly elevated it to a tolerable level. There is no such magic here. You may think I'm just cynical and don't have a heart, but that's not the case. This is just a bad movie. About six months after these two films came out, another film with a similar feel came out that did an infinitely better job of rising above many of the same cliches and stereotypes that I've pointed out above. That film was Erin Brockovich. Go watch that one again.

4 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
kevin c28 September 2002
A film that has earnt attention for some solid acting. Well I won't argue with that. What I would say, is that in many ways it's a film lacking in any real tension. You think you're on the verge of an outburst or emotion, but it never comes.

The main performance is a rip-off of Brockovich, and the whole film is a poor man's "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore".
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Bore!
xoxoamore28 June 2003
I was disappointed to find this a dull, boring film. Tumbleweeds has no real plot to speak of, but this was not its primary problem. Indeed, as any lover of European cinema knows, films with vivid characterizations and strong acting (though little plot) can be riveting. Tumbleweeds, however, is weak on all fronts. The dialogue is not sharp and, perhaps because of the improvisational acting the director allowed, many of the scenes seem slow and do not enhance strongly enough our emotional connection with the characters. As for the acting, Janet McTeer and especially Jay O. Sanders are moving but their intensity is not matched by their fellow actors. (For example, Ashley Buccille, playing Ava's friend Zoe, is a far better actress than Kimberly Brown.) While this story certainly had the potential to be a great film, sadly it was simply a bore.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An enjoyable mom/daughter slice flick
=G=8 May 2001
"Tumbleweeds" tells of a good hearted North Carolina mom with no class who, with her 12 year old daughter in tow, hits the road for California to escape from a bad relationship and find happiness. Not unlike "Anywhere But Here" and similar movies, the daughter seems to have a better sense how to manage their lives than good ol' mom does as they meander through a slice of life with much of the run time dedicated to the mom-daughter interaction and relationship. "Tumbleweeds" is a journeyman comedy-drama with good performances by the two female principals. Likely to be most enjoyed by moms with teen and older daughters.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Poor White Trash
lou-5031 December 1999
Mary Jo is a four time divorcee traveling around the country with her more astute daughter, Ava (after Ava Gardner) trying to find that elusive man that will settled her down in the affecting but poorly conceived film, "Tumbleweeds". When she does find that man, Dan, she concludes you can't 'date' a man who is also a good friend. We are somehow suppose to believe this whole charade about a seemingly wholesome mother who is operating on less than a full deck because of her poor Southern upbringing. We should feel sorry for her because she can't help relieving herself beside the road when it seems convenient nor when she leaves one man after another because they can't seem to appreciate her good hearted nature. We should enjoy the hilarity of Mary Jo playing with tampons with her recently menstruating daughter or seeing her teach her daughter French kissing with an apple or brushing boyfriend Jack's teeth with her fingers and guzzling it down with beer. But deep down, "Tumbleweeds" is a film that looks as cheap as poor Mary Jo. The film overplays the abusive way men behave toward women (can you imagine the resurrected Michael J. Pollard of "Bonnie and Clyde" as the creepy lecherous boss) and the lack of any social refinement from what we think as 'poor white trash'. The only redeeming quality of this film is the steadfast loving relationship between daughter and mother (played by Kimberly Brown and Janet McTeer with such genuine warmth). "Tumbleweeds" is nothing more than another version of "Beverly Hillbillies" except there is no black gold at the end of this rainbow.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed