Sunday, April 22, 2012

Relationships Lost and Found: Tiger Eyes--A Review

One of the things that I really like about Twitter is the possibility to connect with all sorts of different people. Somewhere along the way I started following my favorite young adult author, Judy Blume. Somewhere along the way she started following me. Look what happened yesterday.

Who gets a personal invitation from Judy Blume to see a movie? Who would turn it down? Certainly not me. Last night I put my party boots on and headed down into Boston from my undisclosed location in the Merrimack Valley to attend the screening of Tiger Eyes at the Boston International Film Festival.

Tiger Eyes, a young adult book written by Judy
Blume in 1981 and the first of her movies to be brought to the big screen, is about a young girl trying to cope with the murder of her father. Her son, Lawrence Blume wrote the screen play and directed the film. Willia Holland stars as Davey and Tatanka Means stars as Wolf, the young man who who helps Davey find strength from loss.

Despite the Boston International Film Festival playing an unfinished version of the film that lacked surround sound and the rich deep and moody color the directer intended, the movie was lushly filmed and used the landscape surrounding Los Almos New Mexico as a silent-yet-powerful character in the film.

What is rendered on the screen is a spare yet moving meditation on the solitude of grief and the redemptive power of connection. The film holds a few masterful moments that telegraph to our hearts and minds the experience of grief. Close to the beginning of the movie we are presented with a character's wish to rise up in a hot air balloon and never come down. Shortly thereafter Davey is alone, cradled by a New Mexico canyon, and calls out for her now dead father. The aloneness an isolation of death and loss are hauntingly personified in these two scenes.

The separation and isolation build in the movie and come to a sharp point before pivoting in a Native American ceremony with Wolf (Tatanka Means) and his father Willie Ortiz (Russell Means, Tatanka's real-life father). The ceremony teaches us that no one is left alone in this universe and that it is vital that we are not alone as we are social beings. Wolf's father says "if a person feels disconnected, he or she might fail." The movie starts to unwind itself and carry us to the ending as relationships move from contraction to expansion toward an emotionally satisfying ending. No one fails.

Blume's books are dense. She packs in many different facets of the young adult experience. The movie adaptation of Tiger Eyes is no different. In 92 minutes we are exposed to death, grief, teen drinking, teen relationships and dating, rebellion, angst, and more. I found myself wishing for a simpler more spare story line. The other issues presented in the movie, while important and well done, distracted me from the elegant beauty of relationships lost and found.

I think, perhaps, my wish of a more spare movie reflects my more adult tastes. I got to thinking about how young adults interact with media--short bits of information. I wonder if that was Lawrence Blume's intention of the movie--to present short bits of information to a young adult audience in their own language. If that's the case, it was pure genius.

In the movie, Davey sings one of my favorite Cole Porter songs at a high school talent show. When I drove home after the movie back to my undisclosed location in the Merrimack Valley I pulled up my very favorite version of the song. Annie Lennox sang it in 1990 for Red Hot + Blue, one of the first projects of the recording industry to raise funds for HIV/AIDS. It's worth listening to while you think of your own experiences or relationships lost and found.


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