Janet McTeer, Kimberly Brown, Jay O. Sanders, Gavin O'Connor, Laurel Holloman

Directed by Gavin O'Connor
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
November 24, 1999

"Luminous", "haunting" and "electrifying" — what puny words to describe Janet McTeer, a British actress with the regal, imposing manner of Vanessa Redgrave and a lusty, rippling laugh that pulls you right into her corner. If you caught McTeer's 1997 Tony-winning performance on Broadway in A Doll's House, you saw an alchemist who could make high drama and rollicking comedy out of eating a macaroon.

Tumbleweeds lets McTeer shine on film. As Mary Jo Walker, a much-married Southern belle who only stays in one place long enough to find a man and dump him when the relationship turns abusive, McTeer is a force of nature. Her twelve-year-old daughter, Ava, beautifully played by Kimberly Brown, is swept away on Mom's manic energy. As the movie opens, they've left West Virginia for California and settled in a beach community near San Diego, where Ava struggles to put down roots while Mom finds a dead-end job and another Mr. Wrong (Gavin O'Connor.

O'Connor, who also directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with his ex-wife, Angela Shelton (the story is based on her childhood history), has taken on a tired genre — the parent-child tear-jerker — that runs the gamut from Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore to the current Anywhere but Here. But the quirky humor and blunt honesty of Tumbleweeds — a Sundance hit — pays emotional dividends when Ava stands her ground and Mary Jo develops a relationship with a man (the excellent Jay O. Sanders) that doesn't depend on sex. McTeer and Brown make magic in a film that is wonderfully funny, touching and vital.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Santa Monica”

    Everclear | 1996

    After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

    More Song Stories entries »