[box cover]

Tadpole

Fifteen-year-old Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford) is obsessed with girls. Or women, actually — girls his own age do nothing for him, as he's convinced they simply have not "lived enough" to be worth his time. Guided by the romantic writings of Voltaire, Oscar concludes a woman of around 40 would be right for him. And as it happens, he harbors a severe crush for a smart, attractive older woman: his stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver), a medical researcher who married his father Stanley (John Ritter), a history professor at Columbia University. The affluent Manhattan household offers Oscar many opportunities, and his father's friends hold a great interest in his future goals. However, Eve's best friend Diane (Bebe Neuwirth) simply holds a great deal of interest in Oscar, and after finding the boy on the street one night after he finagled a few drinks in a local bar, she takes him back to her place and gives him a proper shagging. It's sex with an older woman — but the wrong older woman, as far as Oscar is concerned, and he finds he must do everything he can to conceal the tryst from his father and stepmother. The problem is, the tarty Diane practically wants to flaunt the fact that she's bedded a clever teenage boy. Tadpole was a Sundance sensation when it first debuted in 2002, leading to a modest theatrical release (after a bit of re-editing from producer/director Gary Winick). It's also been compared quite a bit to The Graduate, which is unfortunate, if somewhat accurate. Few films can compete with Mike Nichols' masterpiece of youthful angst, which, like Tadpole, finds a idealistic young man torn between romantic archetypes and randy sex with a cynical older woman. Still, Tadpole is a unique bit of filmmaking that stands on its own merits. Shot in New York City in just 14 days on digital video, it has a documentary flavor to it, utilizing many handheld shots and lacking the crispness of 35mm stock. Such makes it seem as if we are somehow eavesdropping on the delicate story, rather than having it offered to us. Tadpole also clocks in at a brisk 71 minutes (not including credits), placing it somewhere between feature film and short subject — its a novella, and a nice change of pace from cookie-cutter cinema. As Oscar, Aaron Stanford is a remarkable young actor, able to convey his character's wisdom beyond his years, as well as his fundamental naiveté. And despite being a low-budget project, it's wonderful that Winick was able to get names in the starring roles. John Ritter is perfect as Oscar's brilliant, well-meaning, but out-of-touch father, while Sigourney Weaver carries her key part with a lot of charm. And Tadpole can only make one wish Bebe Neuwirth appeared in more films — as Diane, she's tempting, manipulating, and sinfully wicked (not to mention 43 and drop-dead sexy). Miramax/Buena Vista's DVD release of Tadpole features an acceptable transfer of the digital-video source (of course, how much you like the look of the film will come down to how much you actually like DV), while audio is in a crisp Dolby Digital 5.1. Features include an informative commentary with producer/director Winick, who discusses the nature of low-budget digital filmmaking — probably an essential track for anyone hoping to launch their own directing careers in the format. Trailer, keep-case.
—JJB



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