Welcome to A-Z Movie Reviews. Every Sunday, for the next several months, I will be posting a review of a film in my home movie collection. How it works is, I will be reviewing movies in alphabetical order until I get to the letter Z (Yes, I do have a film that ends in Z). Now I realize there are many ways to alphabetize a film collection, but this is mine so don’t judge me. This is simply for fun.
I love Independent Films. Thanks to one of my brothers, I’ve been a fan of them since I was a teenager. He showed me there were movies out there other than the mainstream stuff. I recently took a cinema class during summer school and learned more about why a film is categorized as an Independent Film.
Before, I just assumed it was because it came from a smaller studio and had a smaller budget. After taking the class I learned that one of the key components of an Independent Film is that it represents the artistic style of the film. Typically, Independent films focus more on telling a story that deals with topics some mainstream films don’t explore because it’s not necessarily as entertaining.
Some people don’t like Independent Films because of these reasons. Honestly, if you don’t watch Independent Films, you can miss out on gems like Tanner Hall which is what I’m talking about for this installment of A-Z Movie Reviews.
What it’s about:
Tanner Hall is a vivid peek into the private world of an all-girls boarding school. In a cozy, but run-down New England, the knot of adolescent complexity is unraveled through the coming-of-age stories of four teenage girls.
Tanner Hall has all the elements of an Independent Film. It’s such a simple story yet it still has many layers to it. Like the blurb says, it’s a film about four teenage girls: Fernanda/“Fern” (Rooney Mara), the one who follows all the rules and is committed to her studies; Kate (Brie Larson), the party girl; Lucasta (Amy Ferguson) the artistic, shy one, and the new girl Victoria (Georgia King), who is a bit of a misfit.
Tanner Hall is the boarding school they all attend. The film never tells us exactly why the girls all go to boarding school which is something I would have liked to know more about. Particularly Fern the lead in the film. Fern’s mom drops her off at Tanner Hall every school year and though she dreads it, being with her two friends Lucasta and Kate, make things better. Every school year for Fernanda is the same except this time, Victoria, her former childhood friend is attending.
Fern and Victoria knew each other when they were little girls but it’s not clear why they stopped being friends. It’s obvious when Victoria arrives on the first day that there is a lot of tension between the two girls. Victoria doesn’t really help the situation because she doesn’t have the best attitude herself.
From the moment she shows up, she begins to shake things up around campus. She’s a bit different than Fern because she doesn’t follow the rules. This free spirit type of attitude that she has, draws Kate and Lucasta in. They want to remain true to their friendship with Fern of course but, Victoria shows them there’s more than just being cooped up in school all day.
Though the girls live together at the boarding school, none of them truly knows what the other is going through. Fern has always been the “goody goody” and never breaks rules until she meets Gio (Tom Everett Scott). Gio is the husband of Gwen (Tara Subkoff) one of Fern’s mother’s friends.
You see, Fern’s mom has set it up where Fern can go off campus and spend time with Gwen and Gio. Fern’s mom hopes that spending time with them will give her something to do other than staying on campus every weekend. The day Gio goes to pick Fern up, instead of taking her to their house, he spends the entire afternoon alone with her. This is obviously problematic for various reasons which I’m sure you can pick up on while watching. This whole situation just leads to heartbreak for Fern, and she’s left with some tough decisions.
Kate, who as I said earlier is the party girl, remains somewhat of a mystery. She has a lot of fun messing with their teacher Mr. Middlewood (Chris Kattan). She often inappropriately flirts with him and the reasoning behind her behavior is beyond me. My guess is that it was out of sheer boredom and a lack of maturity on her part. Mr. Middlewood is not by any means excused because he should know better being the adult. For Kate, she quickly learns that her actions have consequences she never imagined.
Lucasta, is the quiet one of the group. She does lots of things for the girls like mending their clothes and jewelry if need be. During her free time she spends a lot of time working on her drawings and comics. One of the people she gets along really well with is the pizza delivery boy Hank (Shawn Pyfrom). Hank likes spending time with Lucasta and would like their relationship to grow into something other than friendship but, Lucasta is hiding a secret.
Newcomer Victoria has an air of confidence that Lucasta and Kate like, but they don’t know that she’s a very lonely girl hiding a lot of pain underneath. Victoria tries to act like she doesn’t need friends especially Fern but, her actions say otherwise. She craves friendship and belonging. Her mother is a terrible woman with a cold heart so it’s no wonder Victoria grew up the same. It’s difficult for her to feel for other people going through something and that makes it pretty challenging for her to make friends.
Tanner Hall is one of my favorite Independent Films to watch because the setting always gives me such fall vibes. The color scheme, and the fashion makes me truly feel the season. If you’ve been reading our pieces for a while, you know that Tanner Hall made my list of the Movies To watch To Get In The Fall/Winter Spirit.
One of the other reasons I love it is because of Rooney Mara. I became a fan of her when she was cast in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Previously I had seen her in The Social Network, but the role was so short that I didn’t have much to go on other than I liked her energy. As I have said before, whenever I discover a new actress or actor, if I enjoy them in something, I’ll check out other things they’ve done and that’s what happened with Tanner Hall. Brie Larson who I have also become a fan of, was an unknown to me at the time that I watched Tanner Hall so it’s awesome to see how her career has progressed over the years.
Whether or not you enjoy Independent Films, I think you should check out Tanner Hall because it really is a good film with characters who are real and relatable.
- “Everything worth anything is both terrifying and beautiful.”
- Victoria’s mom sucks.
- Victoria body shaming Fern while she ate breakfast always pisses me off.
- Fern, eat and enjoy your fucking breakfast.
- It’s not Victoria’s responsibility to wake her roommate up every three hours to take her to the toilet. It’s just not.
- Gio, you knew what you were doing the moment you picked Fern up from school.
- Gio and Fern stopping at an apple orchard, the irony is definitely not lost on me.
- Victoria, Hank was hanging out with Lucasta way before you showed up to the school, he doesn’t have to explain why he’s always there. Mind ya business.
- Stealing a win from a child at a carnival to get a stuffed toy is not a good look Victoria.
- Gio cheating on his pregnant wife, yup he’s an asshole.
- Victoria, if Lucasta wants to wear pants, let her wear pants. Her clothing choices are none of your business.
- Collecting guitar amps to plug into stereos does not make a man cool Fern.
- Gio was bold as fuck to have sex with Fern right in his own house with his wife upstairs with their newborn baby. What if she woke up and came looking for him?
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