"Tumbleweeds"
A movie review by
Linda Lopez McAlister Saturday, April 15, 2000

One film that I wanted to see when it was in theaters but I missed was "Tumbleweeds." Happily, it has now been released on video and you can get it in your local video store. The main reason I wanted to see this film is to see the work of Janet McTeer. She's a British actress who walked off with a Tony award for her first Broadway play a couple of years ago playing Nora in a revival of Ibsen's "A Dolls House." Though McTeer has been seen quite a bit in British film and TV, "Tumbleweeds" is her first US film and, once again, her acting is winning awards: a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination. She is truly something special and does a remarkable job transforming herself from her real identity as an out British lesbian into Mary Jo Walker, a drawling single mom out of Carolina with a decidedly heterosexual bent.

Mary Jo and her 12 yr old daughter Ava are constantly on the move, as Mary Jo settles in with one immature and controlling or abusive man after the other, only to be disappointed again, at which point she picks up and moves on to some other state; she's gone from North Carolina to West Virginia to Tennessee and now California. She almost heads out for Arizona when daughter Ava (Kimberly Brown) finally rebels and refuses to run anymore.

In addition to Janet McTeer's wonderful performance, I loved the screenplay of this film and lots of little touches that make it realistic and insightful. The writer and director is Gavin O'Connor, who also acts in the film playing the latest in the long line of Mary Jo's boyfriends. He does a great job in all three capacities. The story on which the screenplay is based was written by Angela Shelton.

Though Mary Jo is quite focused on finding the right man, she also has the ability to develop close female friendships that help carry her through in a crisis; one is with Laurie whom she works with (Laurel Holloman) and another with Ginger (Lois Smith) who is a sympathetic nursery owner. That's very nice to see in this film, though through it all the relationship with her daughter remains paramount.

I need to mention one other fine performance, that of Jay O. Sanders who plays Dan, a man she works with. He becomes Ava's friend and there is a scene between them when he tells her about his wife's death that is immensely moving.

Some week when you're ready for a movie and can't find a good one in the theaters, rent a copy of "Tumbleweeds."

For the WMNF Women's Show this is Linda Lopez McAlister on women and film.

Copyright 2000 by Linda Lopez McAlister. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint or reproduce this article contact the author at mcalister@chuma1.cas.usf.edu