Tadpole

This breezy romantic trifle isn't nearly as clever as it imagines itself to be, but it's smart enough not to take itself too seriously. The subject: the sentimental education of a precocious Manhattan teenager named Oscar (promising newcomer Aaron Stanford), or "Tadpole" as he's known around the tony Upper East Side building where Oscar lives with his father,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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This breezy romantic trifle isn't nearly as clever as it imagines itself to be, but it's smart enough not to take itself too seriously. The subject: the sentimental education of a precocious Manhattan teenager named Oscar (promising newcomer Aaron Stanford), or "Tadpole" as he's known around the tony Upper East Side building where Oscar lives with his father, Columbia professor Stanley Grubman (John Ritter), when he's not away at boarding school. A sophomore at the Chauncey Academy, Oscar is returning home for Thanksgiving with a head full of Henry Miller, a back pocket stuffed with Voltaire's Candide and a heart overflowing with passion for his one true love: his beautiful stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver, who looks good even on digital video). Keeping Eve's identity a secret, Oscar tells his best friend Charlie (The Soprano's Robert Iler) that he's going to profess his love before the break is over, but a serious complication arises that night, following a holiday soiree. Oscar, who's been treating his lovesickness with a few drinks at a local bar, stumbles into Eve's vampy best friend, chiropractor Diane (the always wonderful Bebe Neuwirth). Diane invites Oscar back to her place for coffee and a back rub; one adjustment leads to another and soon the two are in bed together. Terrified Eve will find out, Oscar swears Diane to secrecy, but by lunchtime the following day her friends are slipping the 15-year-old Casanova their phone numbers. That night, "Tadpole" must face his worst nightmare: dinner out with Eve, his father and Diane, who's getting more reckless with each glass of wine. Director Gary Winick's romance wears its pedigree on its genteelly tattered sleeve: J.D. Salinger, Whit Stillman and Wes Anderson are all members of the same club. But Heather McGowan and Niels Mueller's script is often more silly than insouciant, lacking Stillman's effortless urbanity and Anderson's idiosyncratic humor; the frequent literary quotations that appear as intertitles are an unnecessary affectation. The film is at its best when it puts down the Bartlett's and doesn't try so hard. There's a subtle sub-theme about women, sexuality and aging that runs a nice counterpoint to Oscar's coming of age story, and Weaver is very good, softening the rather obvious irony of Eve's profession — she's a cardiologist researching heart ailments — into a believable part of her character.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: This breezy romantic trifle isn't nearly as clever as it imagines itself to be, but it's smart enough not to take itself too seriously. The subject: the sentimental education of a precocious Manhattan teenager named Oscar (promising newcomer Aaron Stanford… (more)

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