The truth is that neither of them knows how to build a life for herself and her teenaged daughter.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Honey, I'm doin' the best I know how," sums up the life efforts of the eccentric mothers in Tumbleweeds and Anywhere But Here. The truth is that neither of them knows how to build a life for herself and her teenaged daughter.

Tumbleweeds stars British actress Janet McTeer as Mary Jo Walker, and Kimberly Brown as the daughter she named after Ava Gardner. Driving from North Carolina to California, the two have nothing but hope for a new start and the fact that each is bedrock and joy for the other. Mary Jo is one of those wondrous creatures who actually believes that adversity can be licked--even without a plan.

She may not have a plan, but her core is rooted in the certainty that a man is the solution to all problems. Her lousy track record aside--four miserable marriages ("I married the second one to get away from the first one and just kept goin'.")--she eyes every man she runs into as the potential filler of the hole in her soul. When a Good Samaritan of a truckdriver stops to help, you will see Mary Jo's essence as she looks him over as a contender and then, totally oblivious to the problem of the broken car and no money, spies a lovely desert flower and leans over to enjoy it.

The movie is a series of finely observed scenes of marginal life in Starlight Beach, California: plucking abandoned furniture from the streets, quitting a new job at the Guard Tech Alarm Company--nothing serious, you understand. When they find a place to live, Ava sighs, "We've never had a year's lease before." After Ava plays Romeo in the school play, her mother fairly flies backstage in her joy. If the movie wears thin while Mary Jo waits for life to right itself, the balance tilts to delight because actresses Janet McTeer and Kimberly Brown use detail and flair to convey the genuine love between a mother and daughter who are co-conspirators in life.

In Anywhere But Here, Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman play the same, if less sympathetic, roles. With the thought of growing old in Bay City, Michigan, burning a hole in her head, Adele August (Ms. Sarandon) and her daughter, Ann (Ms. Portman), roll cross country to Beverly Hills, where Ann is deposited in a sea of high-school students who are navigating the waters of the affluent adolescence that Adele wants for Ann.

Just watch Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman--one already a great actress, the other about to be. They steal scenes from each other, then graciously hand them back as they toy with the roles of two bright women searching for a life they can't articulate.

Tumbleweeds and Anywhere But Here are not so much stories as glimpses of mother/daughter love under strain. Four top-flight actresses extracting laughs and insights from that equation make good watching, but Tumbleweeds wins, hands-down, for wacky originality.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Fine Line Features and Fox 2000 Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running time : 1h44m each

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