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Tiger Eyes
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Blume In Mourning"
2 stars

Like many members of my generation, I devoured the books of Judy Blume when I was younger. Long before the Young Adult literary genre became a billion-dollar industry, she was writing ground-breaking books that dealt with subjects that other books aimed at younger readers wouldn't dare touch--menstruation, masturbation, bullying and the horrors of having a younger brother named Fudge--and did so in a manner that spoke to her audience directly and without any hint of condescension. Kids really responded to her smart and non-judgmental approach and wound up buying her books in droves and reading them to tatters before passing them on to their younger siblings. Oddly enough, despite the number of books she has sold over the years, none of her books have ever made it to the big screen (though there have been a couple of TV iterations of varying degrees of quality). With the release of "Tiger Eyes," Judy Blume has finally hit the multiplex but something has been lost in the transition from the page to the screen.

Based on her 1981 novel, the film opens with 17-year-old Jersey girl Davey (Willa Holland), still reeling from the recent murder of her dad during the robbery of his convenience store, being uprooted from her home, along with her near-catatonic mother (Amy Jo Johnson) and largely oblivious little brother (Lucien Dale) to spend a few weeks living in Los Alamos, New Mexico with her aunt (Cynthia Stevenson) and uncle (Forrest Fyre--yes, that is his name). With her mom numbed out on pills and her childless aunt seemingly determined to micromanage their lives, Davey has no one to turn to in order to help her deal with the rage and anguish that she is feeling. While hiking in the nearby canyons, she meets Wolf (Tatanka Means), a young Indian local, and as the two become friends, he helps her to come to grips with her grief so that she can finally move on with her life.

No doubt because Blume co-wrote the screenplay with her son Lawrence, who also directed to boot, "Tiger Eyes" is an unusually faithful adaptation of its source material--much of the dialogue seems to have been taken straight from the novel and I do not recall any major deviations from the central narrative. Then why is it that what worked so beautifully on the page comes across so stiffly on the screen? Part of the problem is that it may be a little too faithful of an adaptation for its own good--at times, it feels more like an elaborate book report than a compelling narrative. While it does take place in the present day, there is nothing to really indicate that other than the occasional sight of a cell phone and a glimpse at a copy of "Beloved." As a result, all the stuff about Los Alamos and the potential for instant annihilation that it represented that served as a smart metaphor for Davey's inner turmoil about the shocking loss of her father just seems weird and archaic today, especially all the talk about secret projects and whatnot. Another flaw is that while the book was innovative in its day for the level-headed way that it handled the touchy subject of dealing with death and grief--I would take it over the collected works of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in an instant--so many others, often those inspired by Blume herself, have gone on to grapple with those concepts as well in subsequent years and as a result, the film doesn't really seem to have anything fresh to say.

That said, even though I cannot really recommend "Tiger Eyes," I don't want to trash it either. It has been made with a lot of sincerity and earnestness--perhaps a little too much for its own good--and it does have a few individual scenes that ring clear and true, especially the ones involving one of Davey's classmates and her struggles with boys and alcohol. As Davey, Willa Holland is convincing as a troubled teen trying to get a handle of emotions that someone her age should not have to experience in a perfect world. Who knows, it might even strike a chord with adolescent girls going through the same troubles as its heroine. For the most part, thought, "Tiger Eyes" just never really clicks because it never figures out a way to translate Blume's literary gifts into cinematic terms. If that ever happens--and I still think that a film of "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" could be a hit in the right hand--then maybe we will one day see a Judy Blume movie that is just as wonderful as both the woman and her books.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25152&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/06/13 15:28:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Maui Film Festival For more in the 2013 Maui Film Festival series, click here.

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  07-Jun-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Jan-2014


  DVD: 07-Jan-2014

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