Movie Review by Toby White

Starring: Aaron Stanford, Sigourney Weaver, John Ritter, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Iler

Director: Gary Winick

It’s not often one pays attention to the cinematography in movies. It’s a shame really, since the director of photography (or DoP in film speak) is a bit of an unsung hero; so much goes into the craft and it’s all up there on the screen but, to be honest, as an audience its just one of things you take for granted. For all his talents, a DoP’s skills are only noticeable if its particularly moody or clever…or terrible. And, boy, does it grab you. From the opening shot, the ‘look’ of this film is dire. At least it would be if you went in expecting a mainstream film. But it’s not.

TADPOLE is a coming-of-age indie flick about a slightly pretentious Voltaire-quoting, angst-ridden teenager who’s in love with his stepmother. Certainly not your average Saturday night multiplex blockbuster. However, given its acclaim on the indie circuit, with all its championing of triumph over adversity and micro-budgets and, sure, you can see where it’s come from. But, when you compare other triumphs that have graduated to the big league (too many to mention!) even then it’s hard to see how this emerged. I can only imagine its down to the presence of such luminaries as Sigourney Weaver and the auspices of producer-director Gary Winick’s InDigEnt (Independent Digital Entertainment) production company.

As a general rule, the cinematography of a film can be something that shouldn’t matter. As long as the story and storytelling is good, you don’t really notice how bad it is after about the first ten minutes. But with TADPOLE, it’s just something that keeps surfacing and really quite throws you. It gives it the look of a home movie. Sorry to bang on about this but, for everything I’ve heard about the new High Definition video format (and word is it may replace film in the not too distant future), I was expecting something really quite striking but this film sets it back by leagues…hang on…did I miss something? Maybe it’s supposed to be like that. Maybe the look of it dictates the aesthetics of it giving it the “hey, this could be you and your family” feel. After all, it’s all shot handheld too which adds to the personalised aspect of it. And it won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance. Hmm…Fine. In that case, I’d berate the writer for a rather weak and contrived Graduate spin off.

Audience Award at Sundance? Frankly, I can’t imagine what the other contenders must have been like.

2 out of 6 stars