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Tanner Hall

Anchor Bay, 2009, Rated R

By Jason Gargano · December 7th, 2011 · Couch Potato
No doubt resuscitated this year for a brief theatrical (and now DVD) release in advance of star Rooney Mara’s high-profile role in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this previously undistributed coming-of-age tale follows the melodramatic adventures of four friends on the verge of graduation from an all-girls boarding school in Providence, R.I. 

First-time co-writers/co-directors Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini drew from their own lives as angsty teenagers from privileged backgrounds — Furstenberg is the daughter of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, and Gregorini is the daughter of actress Barbara Bach and step-daughter of Ringo Starr — delivering a cliched but sporadically affecting “teen movie,” as Gregorini describes it in the DVD’s audio commentary track.

Much of what works here is due to Mara’s magnetic presence as the central figure — a wise young woman who, eager to experience life beyond Tanner Hall’s sheltering walls, engages in an affair with a much older married man (Tom Everett Scott, whom Furstenberg calls “hot” in the commentary) whose wife, a family friend, is pregnant. 

Tanner Hall is too gauzily rendered and tonally uneven for its own good, but, as a stepping-stone project for both the young, talented cast and the burgeoning filmmaking duo, it could be worse. Furstenberg admits as much in the audio commentary: “I’m not in love with the movie; I’m in love with the experience. I’m in love with the fact that hopefully it will open opportunities for many people and that it employed a lot of people. It will be a part of many people’s careers. It was something productive and concrete and creative that many of us collaborated to make and that you (Gregorini) and I got to do together, and that makes me in love with it.” 

For her part, Mara — who is currently filming Terrence Malick’s follow-up to The Tree of Life; is on board for Kathryn Bigelow’s first post-Hurt Locker effort; and might be making another film with Gregorini — said in a recent interview that “Tanner Hall was certainly my first experience on a movie where I actually had something to do!” And, if only for that reason, it’s worthy of a look. Grade: C



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