As one could probably surmise from reading many of my reviews, I don’t know a thing about women. I am after all a man, that is really the only reason I need. But then again, we are slow witted creatures. But I do know I like watching women (that does not sound too perverted does it?). So perhaps when I saw a list of titles to review, I gravitated towards one called Tanner Hall which follows the story of four teenage girls becoming women. I probably still will not learn a thing.
They say the first time in life you have a chance to do something wrong, you end up doing it anyway. Fernanda finds out first hand that bad things can happen to people on purpose when she witnesses her childhood friend, Victoria release a pet bird that is not hers. But that was many years ago and we rejoin the present day. Fern (played by Rooney Mara) is taking the five hour journey to Tanner Hall, a boarding school for young women.
When she gets there, she is greeted by her two friends, Kate and Lucasta (played by Brie Larson and Amy Ferguson). But there is a new student this year, none other than Victoria (played by Georgia King). Fern is not too happy to see her, remembering her from their youth but Kate and Lucasta look eager to make a new friend. The year is about to start and these women are about to enter their last year at the female boarding school.
But these girls are interested in causing trouble from the get go. The first evidence of this is when Kate falls in the shower but really it is just a ploy to get one of the teachers, Mr. Middlewood (played by Chris Kattan) to come rescue her. An innocent leg rub turns into something highly sexual for young Kate and soon we are treated to Mr. Middlewood carrying Kate to the teacher floor for first aid. But that is not the only thing going on at this school.
Meanwhile, Victoria wants out of her new room. Why? Well it appears that she is roommates with a bed wetter named Margaret (played by Alaina Lauren Steinberg). She is told that the only way to deal with Margaret would be to wake her up every three hours. Victoria decides to lock her in the bathroom instead. Victoria also wants off campus and be able to enjoy life away from Tanner Hall. It appears she is jealous of Fern who gets to spend time with her mother’s friends off-campus.
Victoria decides to do something about this and tells the other girls that she is going to ask the only boy on campus, Peter (played by Ryan Schira) who supposedly has access to a key that will allow her passage off campus. Instead, all Victoria does is break the glass for the emergency key and scampers away. She goes off to town and makes a copy of the key (this seems way too easy) and meanwhile spots Gio (played by Tom Everett Scott) who picked up Fern to take to her mother’s friend Gwen(played by Tara Subkoff).
But they made a small detour along the way, a record store. Actually, it is a rather large detour as they spend the afternoon together. Gio is married to Gwen and they are about to have their first child. He however is going crazy minute by minute and seems to jump at the chance of enjoying time with somebody else. Victoria goes back to school and fakes an injury (accidentally breaking the glass to get the key) and returns the key to Mrs. Middlewood (played by Amy Sedaris).
So, we have four girls in four unique situations. Kate is interested in seducing Mr. Middlewood, and Lucasta is trying to explore her sexuality and understand why she feels the way she does. Fern is exploring her friendship (and turning into something more) with the husband of her mother’s friend. Victoria is simply interested in causing bad things. She desires attention above everything else and will go to any length to achieve that, even at the expense of herself. That includes doing bad things against her childhood friend, Fern.
As one can tell, we have four teenage girls morphing into women. Each of them have a separate agenda and take separate paths to grow to that next stage of life. But they do it with the power of friendship. The story has a nice ending and we learn something about each of the girls along the way. The cast is fine enough and this movie actually has a fine assortment of supporting cast including excellent turns by Chris Kattan and Amy Sedaris.
But despite the nice story, there are some problems here. The main one is that the story is not all that interesting, it just moves in place and not accomplishing very much until right at the end. It is slow and meandering and uses sexual appeal in a lot of places to keep people interested. It works at first but after a while, you get the sense that there just was not enough substance to really glue us to the movie. It is not a bad movie by any means, it is just not a very interesting one either.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation in 1080p resolution. The movie actually looks pretty good. It was filmed in Rhode Island and even a lot of it is filmed in doors, most of the time the color is right on track and nothing looks out of place or out of contrast. It has a peaceful look and its only faults were due to the limited budget. They did a great job with the video considering they could only do so much.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 English TrueHD track. Audio I found to be less impressive unfortunately. The volume on average felt low and pithy. Perhaps this added to some of my boredom but honestly the dialog was only okay at best. Surrounds were hardly used at all and this could have been confused with a moderate Stereo or low end Dolby Digital track. Subtitles are included for English SDH and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: Daydream Nation and Happy Thank You, More Please.
- Audio Commentary: The commentary is done with Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg, childhood friends and Writer/Director/Producers on Tanner Hall. Their close friendship is evident as they talk about the movie they so lovingly created. I honestly do hope that the two friends continue to make movies because they certainly show passion for it. Good commentary. Only part that bugged me is that they mention how they had all of this great extra coverage and it is nowhere to be found on the disc.
- Trailer 2:20: The original trailer. It’s the usual fair and does the job accordingly.
Looking back, I honestly wish that Tanner Hall was a stronger movie. It had a decent cast but somewhere in this coming of age film, it loses focus and then struggles around trying to find it. It finally does in the last few minutes, but it is a case too little too late. The disc does not do many favors either but at least there is a good commentary to be had. This is a tough film to rate since it is in a word, just really average. Maybe if you are a female who has been associated with a boarding school at one time, you will seek this out. But most people would be better pressed to just pass it by.