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Movie Review - Tallulah - Debuted at the Sundance Film Festival (2016)

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“Tallulah” made its well-received debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and was picked up as a Netflix Original Film.  You may remember Ellen Page and Allison Janney when they played daughter and stepmother in “Juno” in 2007.  They are back together again and the chemistry has not faded.  Although the film is not based on actual events, the writer, Sian Heder, once worked as a babysitter at a hotel and encountered an unfit mother and was tempted to take the baby herself, but of course, did not.  Her experience became the basis for her film “Tallulah.”


We first meet Tallulah (Ellen Page) as she travels the country in an old dilapidated van with her boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit) who is actually a rich kid gone wrong who would like to settle down and have a wife and kids.  Tallulah wanted no part of that and he left her to go back to Manhattan where life was a lot easier.


Ellen Page

                                                                    Ellen Page - Wikimedia

Tallulah’s Method of Survival

Tallulah knew that Nico’s mother Margo (Allison Janney) had a condo in New York and headed back herself; she tried to get upstairs to Margo’s apartment, but was stopped by the clerk just doing his job.  Tallulah was aware that she could obtain a good meal by scouting the hallways of high-end hotels where leftover trays were sitting outside of the hotel rooms.  The viewer is then introduced to Margo as she heads to a book-signing, as she has written a best-selling nonfiction piece about marriage and its difficulties.

A Baby Sitting Job

Carolyn Ford (Tammy Blanchard) opened her hotel door as Lu passed by and mistook her for a hotel maid.  She invited Lu inside as she was in need of a baby sitter so that she could meet a man for a romantic extra-marital tryst.  The baby girl, about 18 months old, was walking around naked, and it was obvious that Carolyn was overwhelmed by the baby, and knew little about caring for her, evidenced by her lack of concern when the baby walked out to the room’s balcony.

Lu noticed that a wad of bills was sitting on a table and there was food in the room.  Although she was not keen on babysitting, the perks of the job called out to her.  When Carolyn returned, she had obviously been drinking heavily and fell asleep on the bed.  Lu took the baby, whose name was Madison, and left the hotel.

A Stroller for Maddie

When Lu went to buy diapers for the baby, another mother and baby were in the store also.  The mother had left the baby's stroller standing alone, and Lu walked out of the store with the baby’s stroller.


Allison Janney

                                                            Allison Janney - Wikimedia

Margo Meets Her Granddaughter

An interesting scene occurred when Margo’s pet turtle died, her only companion in her plush condo, and Margo broke down sobbing over the death of her beloved turtle.  The condo was really owned by her husband, from whom she was separated but was unwilling to grant him a divorce.  Soon, Lu returned to Margo’s place with Maddie and introduced Margo to her “granddaughter.”  Margo said she could stay there for one night.

Lu and Maddie are on the Television News

Meanwhile, Carolyn Ford had contacted the police about her missing baby.  Her husband was in London on business and had not heard yet about their missing child.  There were news reports on television showing a video of Lu and the baby in the hotel elevator.  Fortunately, Margo was speaking to Lu at the time and did not see the news report.

Lu’s lifestyle grated a bit on Margo, as she used Margo’s toothbrush.  She also used lemons in Margo’s refrigerator to make lemonade which she sold out on the street.  When Margo noticed that the baby did not have a change of clothes, Lu claimed that someone had stolen her clothes out of the van.

Margo and Lu begin to Bond

Margo and Lu began to bond and they took the baby to the park.  Lu related that her mother had abandoned her when she was six years old.  She was named after Tallulah’s Bar and Grill where she was conceived.  Margo mentioned that she had always wanted to be married and have a family; yet both her husband and her son had left her.  A poignant scene followed where Lu spoke about gravity forcing everyone to be stuck together on this planet.  She said if gravity failed at one point, and she was lifted from the earth, she would grab a tree branch to keep her there.  Margo said she would prefer to just float away from the earth.

Nico’s Father Wants to Meet Lu

Margo had a phone call from her husband Stephen, Nico’s father, who wanted to meet Lu and Maddie.  Stephen was living with a man, which was the reason for their separation.  They went to dinner but Margot and Stephen got into an argument and the women left.

A Theme of Abandonment

This film has a theme of abandonment.  Tallulah was abandoned by her mother and by Nico.  The baby Maddie was virtually abandoned by her mother Carolyn.  Margo was abandoned by her husband who left her for a man.  Although the film is considered a romantic comedy, it is in reality a tragicomedy, baring the flaws and mistakes of human beings.



                                                               Baby - Wikimedia {{PD}}

Carolyn Spots Lu and Maddie

Carolyn was under heavy questioning by the police, and her husband came home from his business trip to London.  Carolyn’s credit cards were canceled.  While riding the bus, she spotted Margo, Lu, and the baby out the window.  She followed them to the train station only to lose them when Lu realized that Carolyn was running after them.  Lu went to the one place that gave her solace, down by the river.  Nico showed up.  Maddie had a fever and a cough and they took her to the hospital.

The Police Make Headway

Stephen’s friend had a habit of reading the tabloids and saw the story about the missing baby.  He recognized that the baby that Lu and Margo had was the missing baby.  The police relayed that news to Carolyn who went to Margo’s condo.  Carolyn’s mother instinct had come to the fore; she desperately wanted her baby back.

The police confronted Lu at the hospital and she was forced to hand over the baby.  She was arrested.  Margo promised her that she would find a way to get her back home.

Margo Clings to Life on Earth

The last scene shows Margo in Washington Square Park lying in the sun.  Suddenly, the gravity around her failed and she was transported above the earth.  Contrary to her previous thinking, though, she grabbed onto a tree branch to remain on earth, a place that had become home to her.

Seldom do we see a film that demonstrates the power of a mother’s feelings towards her children.  Kudos to the women who portrayed this universal truth about the mother-child relationship which is undoubtedly the closest bond that exists between human beings.












Jul 31, 2016 4:59am
Great article! You put alot of thought into this article.
Jul 31, 2016 8:29am
Thank you! I enjoyed the book.
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  1. "Sundance 2016: Fiction collides with reality for 'Tallulah' creator Sian Heder." Los Angeles Times . 31/07/2016. 31/07/2016 <Web >

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