Oscar “Tadpole” Grubman (Aaron Stanford) is 15 going on 40. He’s reading Voltaire and dismisses an attractive female classmate after one look at her youthful, unspoiled hands. Oscar seeks “experience with intellect” in a mate. Returning to New York for Thanksgiving, he tells schoolmate Charlie (Robert Iler, from The Sopranos) that he’s found his perfect woman. Problem is, Eve is his stepmother (Sigourney Weaver). The course of love does not run smoothly, at least not when Eve’s canny best friend Diane (Bebe Neuwirth) gets to Oscar first...Tadpole is a spry comedy with a knockout ensemble cast. The idea of a teenager in love with his stepmother could have been repellant, but casting the statuesque Weaver as Eve makes the situation believable. And Neuwirth is irresistibly funny as the chiropractor, Diane. She doesn’t invite her boyfriend to parties so she can keep her options open and bemoans being 40 because “everyone you know is kinda tired”. Neuwirth has the wittiest lines in the script (by Niels Mueller and novelist Heather McGowan) and she relishes them. The male cast members - newcomer Stanford, Iles and John Ritter as Oscar’s dad/Eve’s husband - are all good.
Producer-director Gary Winick is also the head of InDigEnt, dedicated to “exploratory digital cinema”, but don’t let that put you off. The hand-held camerawork won’t give you a headache and the lighting, although occasionally dim, is sufficient. He makes clever use of music and songs on the soundtrack, including the terminally lachrymose “She” (as made famous by Charles Aznavour).Tadpole may only have one central concept, but Winick explores it fully and brings it to a logical and satisfying conclusion. Best of all, he knows not to overstretch it (the film clocks in under 80 minutes). Tadpole is a small gem.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.