Tadpole

Director: Gary Winick
Year: 2002
Country: USA
Running time: 78 mins
USA
Production co: Independent Feature Channel Prods
Producers: Dolly Hall, Alexis Alexanian, Gary Winick
Screenplay: Heather McGowan, Niels Mueller
Photography: Hubert Taczanowski
Editor: Susan Littenberg
Production Designer: Anthony Gasparro
Costume Designer: Suzanne Schwarzer
Sound: William Cozy
Festivals: Sundance 2002

cast
Eve: Sigourney Weaver
Oscar Grubman: Aaron Stanford
Stanley Grubman: John Ritter
Diane: Bebe Neuwirth
Charlie: Robert Iler
Phil: Adam Lefevre
Jimmy: Peter Appel
Tadpole is a deft, daft surprise, an exquisite, lighter-than-air romantic comedy, tidy and moral and filled with laughs… From France and elsewhere, we’ve become all too familiar with stories of middle-aged men and their younger paramours, but Tadpole, written by longtime Winick pal Niels Mueller and novelist Heather McGowan (Schooling), wreaks a Boy-lita version of the stereotype, with a 40-ish woman pursued by a 15-year-old adept, who just happens to be her stepson…

Sensitive, French-speaking, Voltaire-quoting Oscar (a debuting Aaron Stanford, brimming with charm) is a sweet-tempered Holden Caulfield sort who hasn’t found out about phonies yet, but knows much about older women. ‘You are a 40-year-old trapped in a 15-year-old’s body,’ a girl his own age splutters at him. He comes home from his private school for a long Thanksgiving weekend, sparring with history professor dad Stanley (John Ritter) while quickly revealing his fixation on statuesque stepmom Sigourney Weaver. Blithe Bebe Neuwirth plays Diane, Eve’s best friend, and she’s pricelessly dry and wet at once as she admires – then beds – this sweet young thing. At a café the next day, as a table of Diane’s pals admire Oscar to the point of devouring him, he has a line to match Mariel Hemingway’s response in Manhattan when a guest asks her what she ‘does’. ‘I go to high school,’ says Hemingway: could Oscar make time for another of Diane’s friends? ‘I’m pretty busy with midterms and all.’

Stanford is consistently brilliant in a role that could easily play smug or brittle, but he’s got gravitas without weariness, portraying fixation without becoming overbearing. Plus, he’s damn cute.

The film has a fresh yet familiar voice of quotidian New York sophistication to go alongside Woody Allen in the 1970s, Michael Almereyda’s underground classic Another Girl, Another Planet or even whip-smart fiction writers like Deborah Eisenberg and Francine Prose. Tadpole explores and resolves its premise as compactly and completely as it can, and the comedy is filled with the lucid cultural reportage and repartee we expect from short stories. The unending stream of jokes are rooted in behavior, and the many notions about pure love and the power of passion unsullied by domesticity sink in painlessly… For a fourteen-day shoot, Tadpole is a surprising – and gratifying – treasure, as slight (and sly) as a wink, as weighty as unrequited infatuation. — Ray Pride, indieWIRE, 17/1/02

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