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Tiger Tail in Blue
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by Jay Seaver

"Has some blues, lacks tigers & much of a tale."
3 stars

Give the latest wave of young independent filmmakers this: They seem to recognize that they don't yet have much life experience to mine for movie plots, and the films they make show that awareness. It doesn't stop them from making things like "Tiger Tail in Blue" that never really advance its characters beyond being blank slates, but at least it means that this particular example is not weighed down by a mistaken estimate of its own significance.

It focuses on a young married couple in the Chicago area. Melody (Rebecca Spence) is a first-year high school teacher; Christopher (Frank V. Ross) is a writer, which means he waits tables every night and spends more time hanging out with the quiet restaurant's pretty bartender (Megan Mercier) than his wife. It is, as yet, unclear whether their opposing schedules are doing more to put a strain on their marriage or keeping a different sort of strain from building up.

Frank V. Ross writes, directs, edits, and makes the unfortunate misjudgment that the character he plays is the one that will capture the audience's interest. Christopher is kind of a self-centered little twerp, the kind who gets upset enough to rant about thoroughly innocuous things and could probably stand to be a lot more considerate of his wife's schedule, but he's not enough of a jerk to rise to the level of "a real piece of work", and as such never really becomes interesting. Meanwhile, the audience is seeing hints of a story around Melody's everyday life; the rookie teacher who doesn't know if she can handle the job or if it will even be around next year isn't exactly a new or innovative story, but at least it gives the viewer a hook (Ross, like many writers, profoundly overestimates how much sympathy the broke young writer waiting tables engenders among non-writers), and that viewer can at least see it affecting her.

It speaks well of Rebecca Spence that Melody is able to get some hooks into the viewer despite less screen time and fewer chances to define herself in relation to people other than her husband. She does nice work, though, showing how the long hours and responsibility she's shouldering tend to mute Melody's innate cheerfulness and optimism without ever really losing it. Ross isn't quite her match as Christopher, although he never hits a false note in the role, and even if he may come off sour to the audience, there is some actual chemistry on display between him and Spence. Megan Mercier clicks with him, just enough.

These characters may be in a thin story, but Ross does all right to construct it out of believable, often interesting moments, and there are very few scenes that just feel like marking time. Although the soundtrack by John Medeski & Chris Speed is fairly nice, Ross and cinematographer Mike Gibisser sometimes have trouble making things look as good, often shooting from across the street and finding the exact wrong angle to make an afternoon's sledding seem as fast or dangerous as it's described as being. That scene is one of a number that emphasize how Christopher and Melody have barely entered adulthood - there's also how his stories can only draw on childhood experiences and how she can be hard to pick out in a classroom full of teenagers, and more - and it makes for a well-articulated theme.

It just happens to be a theme that Ross doesn't actually do much with. "Tiger Tail in Blue" serves fine as a snapshot, and isn't nearly as dull as many other movies about twenty-somethings trying to figure out their lives. It could still use some sort of different focus, though, whether that be on a different character or some sort of event that serves as a more obvious and interesting turning point.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=26544&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/16/14 15:52:12
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Directed by
  Frank V. Ross

Written by
  Frank V. Ross

Cast
  Rebecca Spence
  Frank V. Ross
  Megan Mercier



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