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Saturday, August 06, 2016

Tallulah

Let us now consider the career of Ellen Page. It was just under nine years that she burst into stardom in Juno, gaining an Oscar nomination. But her projects since then haven't exactly been as high profile. She followed Juno up with major releases, such as a couple of X-Men films, Whip It, Smart People, and a supporting role in the well-received Inception, but since then she's kind of slid off the map. She's been in a few indies I've seen and reviewed here, such as The East and Super, but nothing major.

That may well be intentional. Page, after years of rumors, officially came out as gay in 2014. She made a film, Freeheld, about gay-marriage rights that garnered pre-release Oscar buzz but sank without a trace. She has been politically active, an outspoken vegan and human rights advocate. She has been hosting a TV series, Gaycation, that explores gay culture around the world.

She has also executive produced a new film on Netflix, Tallulah. Dear readers, I must be honest with you--I hadn't heard of this film until it was brought to my attention by Mr, Skin, which screamed the headline that Ellen Page was finally going nude. Indeed, Page, early in the film, goes topless in a sex scene (with a man). I'm glad to tell you that the movie is pretty good.

Written and directed by Sian Heder, the plot sounds like a Lifetime movie. Page plays a homeless girl, living in a van with her boyfriend (Evan Jonigkeit). They eat from dumpsters, and have no fixed base. He's from a well-to-do family in Greenwich Village and wants to go home, so leaves her in the middle of the night. With no where else to go, she shows up at Jonigkeit's mother's house (she's played by Allison Janney), who wants nothing to do with her.

Sneaking into a hotel and eating off discarded room service trays, Page happens into an amazing situation. A ditzy rich woman (Tammy Blanchard), on the lam from her husband and going on a date with another man, thinks Page is hotel staff and asks her to babysit her one-year-old. Even the homeless Page, who is basically feral, is appalled at how the baby is walking around naked and approaching open windows. But she takes the money and watches the baby, but when Blanchard comes back drunk and passes out, she impulsively steals the baby and goes back to Janney, telling her the child is her son's.

So we get the usual bonding between the two disparate types of woman--the free-spirited Page, and the uptight academic Janney, who's husband left her for another man, They fight, they reveal truths about themselves, yada yada yada. But the acting and the writing is unsentimental, and you can believe the situation, as unbelievable as it is.

I don't believe, at least I prefer not to believe, that coming out as a lesbian can hurt an actress's career. I have to wonder if the sex scene, which is otherwise completely gratuitous, is a way for Page to tell the world that gay people can play straight, just as straight people have been playing gay for years. I think Page is a great talent and hope to see her in films that actually play in theaters (her next film, according to Wikipedia, is a remake of Flatliners, which I'm not really excited about).

If you have Netflix, though, check Tallulah out. It's funny, it may bring a tear to your eye, and Page and Janney are consummate pros.

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