Ellen Page and Allison Janney star in Talullah, Netflix’s latest feature, having previously co-starred in indie sleeper hit Juno. In that film, they respectively played a pregnant teenager and dog fanatic stepmother who played off one another in wittily scripted exchanges of dialogue. Unfortunately, that same sense of sharpness is not brought to this flick.
The dramatic comedy (alleged comedy – I failed to find anything funny in it at all) follows the titular character, played by Page, who has decided to turn indifferent to the world since it has nothing to offer her.
Tallulah, or Lu, lives in her van and drives around the place stealing for a living with her boyfriend, Nico, played by Evan Jonigkeit. However, Nico has announced that he’s sick of the road and wants to go home. Lu refuses to go with him and Nico disappears.
She then drives to New York in search of Nico’s mother, Margo (Janney), who is having issues of her own. She asks for money but is turned away.
Lu goes in search of food and cash, and ends up in the hotel room of a rich, alcoholic mother of a two year-old. She asks Lu to babysit and when she arrives home and passes out on the bed, Lu spontaneously decides to steal the child. She then returns to Margo and says the child is hers and Nico’s.
Despite all this happening in a little over thirty minutes, the movie feels surprisingly stilted and dull, perhaps because its characters are not really all that likeable or sympathetic. They’re whiney and self-centred. In fact the only character that really keeps you watching is Janey’s. The actress manages to make her solitary scenes interesting to watch even when she is doing something completely ordinary.
Jonigkeit’s role feels like he is letting his looks do the acting for him, and while Page is typically a force to be reckoned with, the characterisation here just feels a little boring.
One actress who makes much of a small role is Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba ('Crazy Eyes'), who plays Detective Kinnie. Aduba is always a joy to watch and here’s hoping she’ll get bigger roles in the future.
Coincidentally, the director of the flick, Sian Heder, was a writer for seasons 1-3 of Orange is the New Black, so you’d hope to get a similar dark sense of humour and memorable characterisation here. Sadly, you don’t.
In fact, returning to the premise, the plot of stealing a baby could indeed call for comedy, or one could at least have a few jokes thrown in at the sheer obscurity of the situation. However, the script never affords of such opportunities. It takes itself very seriously and feels quite restrictive as a result.
Finally, the film tries really hard to have these profound moments that get you to think, most patently in a weird metaphor involving gravity and in the conversations between Lu and Margo about life. Sadly, you probably won’t remember what those conversations were about, nor will you remember much else about the film.