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Mrs. Robinson: variations on a theme

Wren Wertin

Taking its title from the main character’s childhood nickname, the film centers around Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford). Son of a good-hearted though fairly obtuse Columbia University professor (John Ritter) and a French woman (they’re divorced), nobody calls Oscar Tadpole anymore, save the doorman at his apartment building.

They do call him smart, strange, exciting and “a 40-year-old man in a 15-year-old’s body.”

Oscar can converse fluently in French, has a particular penchant for the writings of Voltaire and is totally absorbed in the world around him without always being of it. He isn’t interested in the girls of his age group, as they haven’t lived much. Instead, he prefers the company of people like his stepmother, Eve (Sigourney Weaver), and her best friend, Diane (Bebe Neuwirth). They have hands that speak of a life fully lived, at least to Oscar’s eye.



Oscar lives most of his life at Chancy, a boarding school. He’s home for Thanksgiving, and has determined, at some point in the weekend, to tell his stepmother of his overwhelming love for her. Things get complicated when he ends up drunk at Diane’s house (no problem for this kid to sit at a bar and order liquor), and she has no qualms about their age difference.

Part farce, part drama, there are no weak links on the screen. Neuwirth’s coy Diane sparkles, Weaver’s Eve embodies grace and aloofness, Ritter’s Stanley manages not to be the stereotypical absentminded professor and Stanford’s Oscar hits the right blend of intensity and, it must be said, cuteness.



“Tadpole” has a bookish quality, due to the periodic written quotes of Voltaire which divide the scenes into definite chapters as well as underscore points of action. As the only person to call Oscar Tadpole, the doorman’s role is almost that of a tight-lipped narrator. He sees all, but he probably won’t tell anyone about it. He treats Oscar differently as the boy’s own sense of self changes.

Filmed with a digital camera in two weeks, it’s set in time out of time. There are no definitive styles that pinpoint the era. The muted colors and textures give it an almost ’70s feel, as does the lack of studio sound. At times background noises aren’t edited out, as they’re part of the gritty feel.

“Tadpole” was the epicenter of a bidding war at Sundance earlier this year. Its gradual release schedule had it opening in various cities as early as June; it came to Vail last Friday. Some cranky, big-name critics are morally opposed to the work. Others seem mad it was made with a $150,000 budget. As for me, I’ll stand by it all day long. There’s wit, drama, comedy, growing pains and even a splash of redemption.



“Tadpole” is currently playing at Cascade, though it moves to Riverwalk on Friday. Running time is 78 minutes. Call 476-5661 for showtimes.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.


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