Tumbleweeds

on November 26, 1999 by Ray Greene
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   A towering performance by Janet McTeer as a feisty if foundering southern hellion is the primary reason for seeing "Tumbleweeds," director Gavin O'Connor's updated variation on Scorsese's "Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More." A road movie about the unconventional love between a single mother (McTeer) and her wise-beyond-her-years little girl (Kimberly Brown), "Tumbleweeds" manages to move through some familiar paces with an ongoing sense of freshness and discovery, thanks to McTeer's unstoppable Dixie-fried charm.
   Mary Jo (McTeer) is a strong-willed woman with a knack for picking up and moving in with unstable, abusive men. As yet another relationship hits the rocks, Mary Jo grabs her daughter Ava (Brown), piles into the car, and sets out on a new adventure.
   The road leads this time from the deep south all the way to San Diego, Calif. Little Ava quickly finds an inventive, enjoyable new life among the local school kids, and Mary Jo swiftly falls in love with yet another domineering man. When her relationship goes bad once more, Mary Jo tries to do what she's always done: run away. But Ava refuses to start over yet again, forcing Mary Jo to stay put, and thereby confront the fears and insecurities which have always driven her.
   A slight but likable movie, "Tumbleweeds" wouldn't be much without the byplay between McTeer and Brown. As it is, the believable and moving mother/daughter bond they create makes for uniquely enjoyable (if not compelling) viewing.    Starring Janet McTeer, Kimberly Brown and Jay O. Sanders. Directed by Gavin O'Connor. Written by Gavin O'Connor and Angela Shelton. Produced by Gregory O'Connor. Drama. No distributor set. Not yet rated. Running time: 100 min.
Tags: Connor, Angela Shelton, Gregory O, Janet McTeer, Kimberly Brown, Jay O. Sanders, Gavin OConnor, Drama, charm, insecurities, fears, San Diego
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