Hooray for fuck-ups! At least that’s our theme this month (and let’s be honest—every month. Every DAY). This week’s pick is brought to you by Allison Janney and Ellen Page, but mostly Allison Janney.
Where to Watch:
Ellen Page steals a baby! Also Allison Janney is in this.
The Uncondensed Version:
Tallulah (Lu) and her boyfriend Nico have been on the road, living out of a van for the last couple of years. Things begin to fall apart when Nico suggests they settle down a bit, maybe even marry and have children. Lu, much more of a free spirit, freaks out a bit, leading to a big fight and Nico’s departure. With nothing to go on beyond Nico’s brief mention of going home, Lu heads to NYC to find his mom.
Nico’s mom, Margo, is played by Allison Janney (who in fact makes this movie). In the midst of a divorce, fearing she will be kicked out of university-sponsored housing, and alienated from her son, Margo is not in a good place and not particularly welcoming.
After Margo sends her away, Lu goes to a hotel to scavenge and is mistaken for housekeeping. An unhappy trophy wife asks Lu to watch the baby, Madison, while she goes on a date. This woman, Carolyn, doesn’t seem to know the first thing about babies, letting her daughter toddle around naked, claiming she is already potty trained and doesn’t need diapers.
Carolyn is a pretty insufferable character and is accustomed to paying people to do anything she can’t or doesn’t want to do herself, including applying her makeup and putting her shoes on her feet. She has a bit of a breakdown about how incompetent she is as a mother, but it was really difficult to sympathize. Possibly because I find it difficult to sympathize, period.
By the time Carolyn returns home, she is drunk and passes out almost immediately. When Madison reaches her arms out to Lu, she takes it as a sign and leaves the hotel with Madison.
With nowhere else to go, Lu returns to Margo’s apartment and claims Madison is Nico’s daughter. Margo agrees to let them stay for a night, which of course becomes longer.
Margo, Lu, and Madison bond a bit though mostly Margo yells at Lu for her complete incompetence as a mother. We learn a bit more about Margo’s divorce, including the tidbit that she has yet to sign the divorce papers. After many years of marriage, Margo’s husband came out as gay and left her for a man (Zachary Quinto). Margo refuses to sign the papers in part because she’s angry that her husband is considered brave after so many years of lying and ultimately breaking up their family.
Lu, on the other hand, remains pretty mysterious. The only thing she reveals is that she was named after a bar in the town where she grew up, and possibly hints that one or both of her parents were alcoholics. When asked if she was raised by wolves, she responds “I wish.”
Meanwhile, Carolyn is frantic about her missing daughter, partially because her husband has no idea she is in NYC and will never forgive her for losing their daughter.
You know this isn’t going to end well.
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I don’t know if I like this one or not. Allison Janney is amazing in this (duh). There are moments that are very successful, and I like that it’s very focused on exploring themes rather than plot.
On the other hand, the tone strikes me as very uneven. It’s a drama, but it has some lighter moments and (almost) a comedy ending. I also didn’t really buy Margo and Lu’s bond—by the end, it was meant to be very strong, but I didn’t think enough time was spent establishing that.
My mom watched quite a chunk of this with me, and she thought the subtitle should be “A Psychologist’s Case Notes” or something along those lines. It did seem to be a very clinical study of the characters’ personalities and motivations.
Even though she’s the titular character, I think Lu’s motivations remain the most obscure. It’s odd that she takes the baby so soon after having a discussion with Nico insisting she doesn’t want to settle down and have a conventional life. But the movie is all about deception and self-deception, so perhaps these are things Lu does want to some degree. All of the characters seem to lack clarity regarding what how they’d like the future to look and instead try to replay old scenarios with a happier ending. Lu may want to create the happy childhood she presumably never had without having to really commit to being a parent or leaning on others for help.
I like the exploration here, but not necessarily the execution.
Would Christa take the money and run or take the baby and…stun (rhyming is hard)? Find out here!