Tadpole

on July 19, 2002 by Annlee Ellingson
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   Precocious 15-year-old Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford), the son of a history professor at Columbia, speaks conversational French. He has an affinity for Voltaire. And he pays attention to things like what a woman's hands can reveal about her. But for all of his sophisticated airs, Oscar is experiencing what all post-adolescents go through: first love. Except the object of his affection is Eve (Sigourney Weaver), his stepmother. And on Thanksgiving weekend, he is determined to tell her.

   Things don't quite go as planned. Oscar is seduced by Diane (Bebe Neuwirth), a childhood friend of Eve's, instead. When his transgression is revealed, Eve's disappointment is nearly more than he can stand. But his eventual profession of love, nerve-wracking in its certain humiliation, is ultimately met with flattered sensitivity, serving as a reunifier for his dad and Eve's struggling relationship and allowing him to let her go and pursue girls his own age.

   Screenwriters Niels Mueller and Heather McGowan have crafted a script as charming in retrospect as it is on screen. When Oscar confronts Diane about their tryst, she invites him to join her for tea with her girlfriends, who, starved for a show of interest in their lives, become as enamored with him as she, giving him their cards for future encounters. (Indeed, in explaining her actions to Eve, Diane says, "If you hadn't met someone in a very long time who was excited about life, you would consider a 15-year-old.") To his horror, Oscar learns that as a girl, Eve had a soft spot for sideburns. Nonetheless, in a move that betrays his immaturity, he fashions himself a pair of falsies. Zingers are plentiful, especially when it comes to the May-December relationship, with catty references to "The Graduate" and 40-15 tennis scores.

   At the center of the film, Stanford is a revelation, irritating in his pretentious dismissal of his female peers yet delightfully charming in his encounters with adults. Surrounded by experienced pros such as Weaver, John Ritter and Neuwirth, the newcomer not only holds his own but shines through.

   Unfortunately, this gem is dulled by the digital camerawork, its washed-out documentary style deadening the film's otherwise effervescent tone. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Bebe Neuwirth, John Ritter, Aaron Stanford and Rober Iler. Directed by Gary Winick. Written by Niels Mueller and Hethaer McGowan. Produced by Dolly Hall, Alexis Alexanian and Gary Winick. A Miramax release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time 78 min

Tags: Sigourney Weaver, Bebe Neuwirth, John Ritter, Aaron Stanford, Rober Iler, Directed by Gary Winick, Written by Niels Mueller, Hethaer McGowan, Produced by Dolly Hall, Alexis Alexanian, Gary Winick, A Miramax release, Comedy, immaturity, fashions, tea, post-adolescents
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