"I postponed seeing this film in the theatre because the DVD can be purchased for the price of two movie tickets. I usually triage films I eventually watch -- some I must see on the big screen, some I rent, and some I buy on blind faith and film reviews. This film fell into the last category. The critics wrote very favorable comments about Janet MeTeer's performance, and of course she won a Golden Globe, so I wasn't taking too much of a risk, and I was not disappointed in my decision. Janet McTeer plays a dislocated single mom named Mary Jo Walker. She is so real I swear I knew her back in North Carolina. Her daughter Ava, played by Kimberly J. Brown looks like a real child and has a real child's problems.I couldn't gauge the time period of the film but the bathing suits were right out of the late fifties or early sixties (they weighed a ton when you got them wet). Ava's English teacher uses the phrase "dissed" which seems out of place to me as I don't remember that term being used before the seventies. Depending on the period, things were better or worse for single moms and their offspring although California was the place to be until very recently if you wanted to survive (too expensive now! ). There was a time when the only way a female could deal with an unhappy home life was to "get married" and run away, and then "get married" and run away, etc. and the first thing you knew you woke up one morning and found you had been married 3 or 4 times, were unemployed, and still waiting for the knight in shining armor who never seemed to show up. I know what it feels like to run away from an abusive parent at age 17, dropping out of high-school and marrying the first guy who asked. Heck, I went straight from North Carolina to California. If you've misjudged--and most do--you end up bouncing along from one pillar to another post waiting for something to work out. This film reveals how misjudgments happen. Women who make bad choices aren't bad -- just hurt, scared, and uninformed about other, better choices. My single mom friends and I survived by befriending each other, and showing each other how to "rise above" problems. This wonderful film celebrates that triump."
I LOVED THIS MOVIE!
eileen f. | 04/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tumbleweeds was a brilliant film. Both Janet McTeer and Kimberly Brown were outstanding as a mother and daugther travelling pretty much across country and running away from mean boyfriends. It is a great story of a relationship between mother and daughter, and not only is Mary Jo a great mother but she is also a great friend to her daughter. This film made me laugh alot. There is alot of humor to it. I rented the DVD, and after the ending(which i loved, that's all i will say about it), I watched it w/ the audio commentary for awhile, and it's a great way to learn more about the whole process of film making, and I would not have known that the director/writer of the film had also acted in it. I recommend this film to all, It's a must see!"
John Farr | 07/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A familar mother-daughter tale receives refreshingly uncompromising treatment in "Tumbleweeds", buoyed by a stellar performance from McTeer, who was Oscar-nominated. Young Brown also shines as a daughter forced to grow up too soon. Director O'Connor knows his material, and does a fine turn himself as rugged trucker Jack, Sara Jo's latest love interest."
Three cheers for McTeer!! No cheers for Gavin O'Connor.
A. Gyurisin | Wet, Wild, Wonderful Virginia | 06/23/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I have recently discovered director/actor/anyone commentary on DVDs. For the longest time, I would complain that they added no value to any film, and that as a critic I chose not to listen to them because I wanted to enjoy the film in its final version - audio commentaries are like being in the kitchen of a elaborate restaurant ... do you really want to know what goes in your food? Actually, and rather surprisingly, I have recently found the answer to be "yes", and have been devouring commentaries like minute candy. I have discovered many truths and errors of many directors or actors as they humorously and severely critique their bodies of work. One of my most recent adventures involved the film "Tumbleweeds", which garnished several awards (with great respect) for Janet McTeer, but made me realize one small facet of cinema that I don't think about when I watch movies directly - there is a reason the directors are behind the camera, and typically, not in front. In "Tumbleweeds", my case is built around Gavin O' Conner - the director, whom in my unprofessional opinion shouldn't be either in front of the camera or at least talking behind it. He is a decent director, but not one that should open his mouth or voice an opinion - harsh words? I don't think so. He completely destroyed the ambiance of this film.
Well, if I haven't completely disgusted the reader by this point, I have such pulled them in so that I have to explain myself and my comments about the above remark. As I watched "Tumbleweeds" for a second time, I realized that it was a wonderful film about a mother and daughter team that travels across the country avoiding the mother's mishaps with wrong men. It is a touching story that is helmed by one of the most unappreciated actresses of our time, Janet McTeer. Her performance, not only in this film, but also in a little independent feature called "Songcatcher", is breathtaking. She is captivating, intelligent, and completely steals every scene in which she performs. "Tumbleweeds" is worth the purchase, if anything, just for McTeer's performance. Not only is her singular performance attractive, but she is able to intermingle with her daughter, Ava (Kimberly Brown) with the greatest of ease, and even the despicable Jack Ranson (Gavin's mush-mouthed role) with sheer brilliance. I could dedicate this entire review, scene by scene, on how well McTeer controlled herself. It is a performance, as well as the one in "Songcatcher" that I believe others in the same profession should be forced to watch before getting into the game. This I believe - what can you say? But Gavin, oh Gavin, that is a completely different story.
For the first thirty-plus minutes of this film we are forced to build a bond between Janet and Ava, but then, Gavin - honestly kinda snobby - forces his way into the picture. Without the director commentary, it is merely by chance, but as you listen you realize that he tells us that nobody else could have played the role better than him. Arriving into California, I was a bit surprised that someone with an incredibly thick New York accent took the role of a manipulative trucker. Hey, he even gained weight for the role - but he didn't fit with the film. What bothered me the most is that he never quite saw that throughout his pandering of how great of a director he was. I envision Gavin as exactly the character of Jack Ranson. He is a decent guy to begin with, but when the stress begins to pour on, his temper begins to flair and his ego begins to rise. I just got that from this commentary, which in turn soured my experience a bit for this film.
There were other parts to the film that didn't fit either, but were excusable. There is a moment at the end where Ava and random man Dan Miller cry their eyes out in a RV, which doesn't make much sense in the grand scheme of the film - oddly, the entire Dan Miller addition (while greatly played by Jay O. Saunders) just didn't compute near the end. It was a chance to see that a good man was floating right below Janet's nose and she didn't even see it, but he just doesn't fit with the entire rest of the film. Kimberly Brown does a great job keeping up with McTeer and honestly playing her daughter very well - with the same sarcasm and spunk.
What can I say, outside of Gavin, I thought this was a very honest outing. I liked the lower budget which took chances, I liked the characters (for the most part), the drama seemed to equate well with the humor, and it was a true story - one couldn't ask for anything better. The mixture was perfect, and McTeer deserves every ounce of praise as she received for this film, but alas, I cannot say the same for Gavin. He is, as stated before, a decent director, but he forces himself too freely upon us. He is controlling, overbearing, and rude - and I haven't even met the man before. It is just the way he came across in the commentary.
I can suggest this film to everyone. I thought, beyond my dislike for Gavin, it was a powerful film with very strong characters. They were complex, yet utterly simple. It was translatable and powerful to see McTeer just gobble up her character. Outside of the small mishaps mentioned above, this was a great film.
Grade: *** out of *****"
A memorable movie with Janet McTeer in a great lead performa
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw Tumbleweeds in 1999 when it was first released in the cinemas and I'll always remember it as one of the best films of that year. British actress Janet McTeer went on to win a well-deserved best Actress Oscar nomination for her role as Mary Jo Walker a flaky South Carolinian, who runs backwards and forwards towards abusive men and searches for love in all the wrong places.
13-year-old Ava (Kimberly J. Brown) is still young enough that her mother, Mary Jo, seems like the center of the world. The film opens as Mary Jo is suffering domestic abuse at the hands of her drunken rage -fuelled husband, while Ava nervously cowers in her bedroom. Mary Jo is smart enough to realize that she can't expose her daughter or herself from this any longer, so they go on the road looking for a better future.
They settle in a southern California beach town of Starlight Beach where Mary Jo quickly gets involved with another guy, Jack Ranson (Gavin O'Connor). But things don't go as planned. It seems as though there's something about Mary Jo who thrives on hooking up with the bad guys. Soon, she continues a pattern familiar to the sarcastic, adaptable Ava: Mom moves in, meets the lout, shacks up, things go wrong, so mother and daughter move on again.
McTeer plays Mary Joe to the hilt, turning in an absolutely masterful performance. She radiates openness, optimism, and sensuality; she captures the casual, easy-going exterior but also the pain, insecurity and weariness underneath. It seems that Mary Jo, not so much gets into bad relationships, but that she just can't quite see alternatives. Despite having been locked in co-dependencies, she has survived with mostly indefatigable buoyancy, a wild and raunchy sense of humor, and a joy in life and living that sparkles.
It is the mother daughter relationship that really drives this story. On the surface, her relationship with Ava is more like girlfriends of similar age than mother and daughter, but for all her worldliness, Ava is still barely pubescent. Mary Jo is still a mother with a deep well of unconditional love and the mother-daughter bond is always conspicuous - she even gets a real kick out of teaching her daughter how to kiss boys.
Brown plays Ava as observant, perceptive, realistic; she's been around her mother's serial misadventures and they have made her wise beyond her years. She's clever enough to counter her mother's often-unrealistic expectations; Ava's seen it all before and it has hurt. She'll hold back where Mary Jo plunges in, often with disastrous results; it's as though Ava is constantly learning from her mother's mistakes.
First-time director and co writer Gavin O'Connor - who also plays Jack - is insightful and skilled at really bringing out the dynamics of the mother and daughter relationship. Every scene means something, no one gets caught acting, and there's almost no exposition.
Of course when Mary Jo finds that she's merely repeating the mistakes of the past, her first instinct is to flee, rather than face her, and it is Ava's insistence on staying that forces Mary Jo to stay put and find another way to live her life. Mother's usually teach their daughters, but the irony in this film is that daughter teaches mother.
Tumbleweeds is a lovingly pragmatic little film that is just brimming with warmth, realism and humanity. It's closely observed and honestly presented, and acts as a huge showcase for McTeer's talent as an actress. It's just a pity that, as yet she hasn't gone on to achieve the international fame that she so thoroughly deserves. Mike Leonard October 05. "