When one of the first lines in an e-mail sent to me by Netflix asking me to screen their new original movie said “Starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney”, my instant response was “I’m in!” Of course, I couldn’t help thinking about the last movie they appear in together, but Tallulah is anything but a continuation of Juno.
Tallulah, written and directed by Sian Heder (writer for Orange is the New Black) was inspired by Sian’s time in LA working as a nanny for the very wealthy. A dramatic comedy that tells a story very similar to an experience of her own. The movie follows Tallulah (Ellen Page) a grifter-type, who claims to be content living in her van, even if that means she has to do so alone, but after her boyfriend ditches her, she goes looking for him. She finds herself outside the hotel room door of a wealthy woman alone with a baby. The woman, Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard, amazing) mistakes Tallulah for hotel staff and pulls her inside. There, Tallulah is quick to realize all is not right. Carolyn is fall-down drunk, and for lack of a better word, a trainwreck. In a very weak moment, Carolyn divulges that she’s never been alone with her child before, her marriage and life are a wreck, and doesn’t really want to be a mother.
Tallulah, for the right or wrong reasons, steals the baby, and the first place she goes is to Margo (Allison Janney), the mother of Tallulah’s missing boyfriend who is living alone after being left by her son and husband. Margo takes in Tallulah and the baby, believing the baby is her son’s.
For me, Tallulah isn’t just the story of a messed up woman who stole a baby- it’s the story of three women finding themselves. In life, and as mothers.
Now, I’m not a movie reviewer by nature. I wasn’t sure, why, of all the Stream Team members, they chose me (along with 4 other mom bloggers) to watch the movie before its release… until I watched it. I stopped describing the movie less than half-way in, because I don’t want to spoil too much of it. I think it warrants viewing yourself without knowing every single detail, but I do have a lot to say, a lot of thoughts. My questions, though, were answered, in an awesome informal video-chat with Sian.
My personal story is no secret. I have detailed in many blogs, and even in many chapters of my first book. I was bullied by a group of moms. By other people who just got a snapshot of my life and viewed me to be “bad” and “incompetent” when my youngest child was very ill. But they didn’t know me, or really anything about me. They just snapped to judgment.
While Sian wrote the movie before having her own children (she has two now), she admits that over time working on the script and getting everything into place to make it happen, while her life happened around the process, her view of Carolyn changed. She went from seeing Carolyn as most people might while watching the movie- a villain, a bad mom– to seeing her as human. I wondered if other people might feel that way watching the movie, or if they’d instantly jump to judgment.
Sian’s response- “I wanted to take the audience on my own journey, which was starting off from a place of judgment and having those feelings of empathy creep up on them. At the end, I don’t think Carolyn is going to be a great mom. There is no way at the end of the movie she’s going to transform her life, but that she’s going to try and that’s all of us can ever really do. Try to be the best we can be and try to pay attention to our kids be there as much as we can.”
When we snap to judgment, we fail to see the whole picture.
We could so easily paint the women in this movie as one-dimensional.
Tallulah is a screw-up.
Margo is judgmental and overbearing.
Carolyn is an unfit mother.
They’re all so much more than that, though, and that’s what I loved so much about Tallulah. And while, even with everything I’ve been through, I instantly villainized Carolyn’s character, for having everything and not appreciating it. For just being what appeared to be a terrible mother, without knowing anything about her other than what I got in a glimpse. Though, the more I thought about it, something about her resonated with me, and with Sian.
We’re all perfect moms until we have kids. It’s funny how motherhood changes your perception. The part of us that now, after having kids, knows that we’re never going to be “perfect”. There’s a part of us that knows we’re messing shit up, when we feel like we’re falling apart, we can’t do it, we’re not meant for it. That’s the part of Carolyn we can all relate to. That’s something we maybe don’t like to admit to ourselves, and we judge in others- but we’ve all been there.
Although I’m not Carolyn, I’ve felt like her. I’ve been judged. I’ve made rash judgments like Tallulah. I’ve been overbearing like Margo.
I think judgment is a normal part of the human existence. It’s natural to look at someone else and compare and contrast. How are they different? How are we alike? And when it comes to shaming other moms, making them feel worse when they’re already in a low place, judging them-and Tallulah showed me that I still have a lot of work to do. We all do.
Sian Heder succeeded in making a film that didn’t just paint women as one-note characters. She allowed us to see the peeled-back layers of how it really is. It’s messy, and it’s complicated, and it’s real.
Tallulah will make you laugh, and it will make you feel, and it will make you relate on so many different levels as a mother, and as a human. And it will make you ask- what would you do? Would you steal this baby?
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Tis the season! pic.twitter.com/5VgMLnt22E
I am weak pic.twitter.com/LYdRQ6EZcC
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