Street Smarts

Nomadic Tumbleweeds explores the road not taken

Janet McTeer in Tumbleweeds.
Janet McTeer in Tumbleweeds.

The details in Tumbleweeds are so carefully chosen and nicely executed that they could serve as a kind of dramatic and comedic gift catalogue -- Mary Jo and Ava dolled up in identical ribbed bathing suits; Mom teaching daughter how to kiss using a couple of apples as props; the attentions, neither too forceful nor too remote, of the one decent man (Jay O. Sanders) in Mary Jo's world. Best of all, perhaps, we have little Ava and her audition for the school play, which happens to be Romeo and Juliet. Who's to say, in Elizabethan times or our own, that Romeo must be played by a boy or Juliet by a girl? Who's to say, in Southern California at the end of the '90s, that destructive human patterns must repeat themselves forever or expectations can't be overturned? The most liberating thing about this funny, touching, heartfelt little movie is the way it defies the rules and, in the end, begins to set its heroines free. They've earned it -- both of them.

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