Customer Reviews: Tanner Hall [Blu-ray]
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"Tanner Hall" is one of those well meaning, but very familiar, coming-of-age stories that have populated the movie landscape since before I can remember. That said, it is also a movie that I very much wanted to like. Despite the well-worn premise, the film is obviously made with care and there is a lot of talent involved in the production. The piece seems very personal to filmmakers Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg, and I admired the look and feel of the picture with its muted tones and its palpable aura of nostalgia. And yet for all its good qualities, there seems to be something lacking. Forget for a minute that we've seen every plot point in countless other movies as this can actually be forgiven if a film is exceedingly well done. My primary concern stems from a screenplay that seems to have huge chunks missing. The movie feels very episodic as we move from scene to scene, oftentimes with no tangible or logical connector. Several times as a new sequence would begin, I had to think "huh, did I miss something?" because nothing that was shown supported what was currently happening. My favorite instance involved the disappearance of a major character with a paraphrased narration that said something like "she was so upset, she never left school again." And then we never see this principle character again!

"Tanner Hall" does boast a strong and appealing cast. It concerns a quartet of girls at a boarding school, each navigating the pitfalls of advancing to womanhood. They are, however, stuck in pretty stock characterizations despite good performances all around. Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) plays a good girl involved in a flirtation with a married man, Gerorgia King plays a troubled girl who acts out in response to an unhappy home life, Brie Larson plays a mischievous girl who flirts with a teacher, and Amy Ferguson plays a girl struggling to understand her sexuality. I liked all four actresses, and enjoyed the comedic bits offered up by the great Amy Sedaris and Chris Kattan as the so-called responsible adults. Individual moments can be quite effective or amusing, it just never seems to gel to a cohesive whole.

I can't help but wonder what the original script looked like or how much material had to be excised from the final production schedule. The unexplained narrative jumps are really quite jarring. Still, if you're a fan of any of the lead actors--they are earnest and convincing. The film looks great, but it ends up losing emotional impact for the reasons stated already. I think the filmmakers exhibit a lot of style and a real eye for scene composition, and I look forward to sampling the next endeavor. But for me, "Tanner Hall" left me a bit empty. KGHarris, 12/11.
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TANNER HALL is like a very interesting puzzle delivered to the audience in pieces so disconnected that we never get a final reward form the completion of the puzzle. Written and directed by newcomers Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg it has a script that seems to want to be embellished or at least reinsert what seems to be like fragments of a longer film that still dwell on the cutting room floor. But for what it is, it is an entertaining stage for the presence of some very fine actors about whom, despite the shred of information about each, we learn to care.

Tanner Hall is an all girls (with the exception of the Head Mistress's son Peter as played by Ryan Schira) somewhere in New England: the stately buildings are crumbling just like the lives of the girls who study there. Fernanda (Rooney Mara sans piercings and tattoos!) relates the story by remembering a time in her childhood when her friend Victoria (Georgia King) committed an act of meanness - allowing an old lady's pet parrot to escape. Hold that thought.

At the school Fernanda, Kate (Brie Larson) and Lucasta (Amy Ferguson0 are best friends and when Victoria is dropped off to yet another new boarding school by her abusive mother she joins the clack. From this point the entries into love, alienation, mischief, decisions about sexuality, and adultery color the fragments of the film. Gio (Tom Everett Scott) is married and expecting a baby but falls for Fernanda and the two have a challenging relationship. Lucasta must face her conflict as to her needs and rebuffs physical advances form delivery boy Hank (Shawn Pyfrom), and Kate flirts with teacher Mr. Middleton (Chris Kattan) married to the sex obsessed and frustrated Mrs. Middleton (Amy Sedaris). Victoria is left yearning for the world of relationships to make sense but not finding the path. There is the beginning of a storyline as the girls escape confinement with Victoria's theft of a key, but that eventually goes nowhere except fizzle.

The themes of the film have been used before - and will be used again: girls becoming women is a never ending source of story material. The aspect that makes this little film shine is the presence of the fine acting of Rooney Mara, Georgia King, Brie Larson, and Amy Ferguson. They are a pleasure to watch perform. Grady Harp, March 12
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on December 30, 2011
We, the 99.9 percent of the world that wasn't in attendance at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, have to consider the recent DVD release of Franny Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg's gal drama, Tanner Hall, the film's public debut. So, despite being a movie filmed in late 2008 and not going public until late 2011, this super stylized drama is a 2011 film, and one of the most surprisingly fulfilling watches we sat for all year.

Staffed with a cast of A-level young talent (led by Rooney Mara, Georgia King and the sizzling Brie Larson), this New England boarding school ensemble flick rolls through scenes with no clear cut story arc, instead playing through as a glimpse into the lives of a group of A-level teen girls going through the way crazy stage of puberty, full blast. Pure fire.

We see details of relationships morphing when the new girl, Victoria (King), arrives and fearlessly stomps her way into the pack or sisters. The crew's soul captain, Fernanda (Mara), is the most powerful and interesting character, and she's brought to life with grace by the Girl With the Dragon Tats herself. It's a performance that could've maybe even been considered legendary, had only Tanner Hall been treated as a major release. Mara's moves are so good that we have to assume this was the film that helped David Fincher find his new discovery.

Imagine if Sophia Coppola rewrote the Little Women script for John Hughes in the late 80s and you'll have a good idea of the haunting appeal that is Tanner Hall. As far as film art and storytelling goes, this is one of the great surprises of 2011. An incredible mix of design, writing and performance. Better late than never.

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on May 6, 2015
This movie, though as observed by others, does contain a cliche or two. What I found different about this particular boarding school movie is how each girl is given her own story. They are all discovering their own strengths, weaknesses, limits,and forming their own personalities while away from their families. They rely upon their friends, fool their teachers, get into trouble, and delve into adult situations they believe themselves to be capable of dealing with. There are humorous moments and heart-wrenching ones. You don't have to be a girl to identify with what one of these characters experience.
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on December 18, 2011
this is a coming of age story as 'romeo and juliet' and 'sid and nancy' are both great love stories. It tells a story of a brief time in the lives of four young women. They dont come of age, they deal with their own particular struggles together and lonely and alone. True to life, i felt lucky to be privy to observe their joy and pain in a particularly time of life that is so turbulent and intense for all of us.
I appreciated the absence of cliched hollywood fallbacks like cheap titillation, simple characters and plots, and predictable hollywood endings. these actors did a wonderful job as did the writers. the characters are complex and engrossed me because they were real to me.
i highly recommend this movie and give it five stars. i respect the prior reviewers opinion, just mine is different. i suppose i could be critical too, but i was too busy enjoying watching this film. i hope you enjoy it near as much as i did.
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on November 3, 2012
A boring, pointless, disjointed mess. A couple of times I actually found myself asking, "Good Lord, will this movie ever end?" I kept watching, hoping for some kind of a redeeming twist or resolution, but there wasn't one. I know Rooney Mara was nominated for an Oscar for Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and that's wonderful, but she sure does stink in this movie. Than again, so does everyone else. Yikes, what a fail.
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on September 25, 2012
There have been a fair number of good 'coming of age' flicks but this isn't one of them.

Here's the scoop. A group of friends at an all girl, east coast, boarding school begin their senior year. A new girl is throwing a monkey wrench into the previously secure friendships and all the girls end up a little older in the end.

This movie suffers from a poor script and some bad casting. As far as the script is concerned there is a fair amount of cliche, poor pacing, bad set ups and an overall jumpiness. Victoria is the new kid with the alcoholic mom. She cuts herself, has attempted suicide and wants everyone to be as unhappy as she is. Fernanda is the usually sensible one who ends up in a relationship with an older 'friend of the family.' Lucasta is becoming confused about her sexuality and Kate spends a lot of time teasing a sexually repressed teacher. We've seen this before and none of the characters reaches much above the level of cut-out. Victoria is said to be charismatic but we don't see it. The girls jump to her side and think she's cool way too early in the movie. We don't really see why. The relationship between Fernanda and the adult happens way too fast as well. Nothing actually leads up to the relationship. It's more like he stalks her and uses his adultness to put the move on her. She falls hopelessly in love with him but why? We don't see things develop. Scenes don't flow. They jump from one to another. Too many of them don't flow to the next scene. They just stop.

This IS a good looking film. Shot on the east coast in the fall? What's not to like? And the school has a lot of character. I could have stared at it for hours. The music though barely reaches above generic. The casting had some peculiarities as well. Chis Kattan and Amy Sedaris as a misfit husband and wife are too comic to fit in here. The directing tries to play them only mildly comic but it couldn't be done. I just didn't believe any of this. Maybe if I were a coming of age girl and not an upper middle-aged guy this might dig deeper. But I am what I am and this doesn't ring true.
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VINE VOICEon September 9, 2013
"Tanner Hall" is basically "Wild Child" meets "Girl Interrupted", if you enjoyed "Cracks" you should seek out this film. It is an extremely modest production but the entire budget makes it onto the screen, the four main characters were realistically developed, and the four actresses playing them were well directed. Amy Sedaris plays a secondary character who effectively provides a necessary comic relief, thereby leaving the four main characters free of something that could have tainted their connections to the viewer.

Fernanda (Rooney Mara) has the standard Winona Ryder part and the storytelling is essentially from her character's point of view, with the same voiceover narration of Ryder's character in "Girl, Interrupted". Rooney's acting has an ephemeral quality that transforms ordinary scenes into something special, perhaps best illustrated by her nonverbal reaction to discovering Victoria alone and crying in the rest room. The editor explains this through Fernanda's voiceover, but the scene has already communicated Fern's shifting attitude as she processes her unexpected connection with Victoria's vulnerability.

The climatic scene in which Fernanda becomes protective of the bullying Victoria (Georgia King) did not entirely ring true - it was perhaps too extreme - Victoria's mother needed a better build-up. But I find scenes where a seemingly weaker girl becomes protective of a stronger one to be irresistible, probably become they challenge a viewer's preconceptions.

And challenging viewer preconceptions is what "Tanner Hall" is all about. Like "Welcome to the Dollhouse", this is a film more about what is happening inside each viewer as they watch the film than about what is actually happening on the screen. Your reaction and the film's entertainment value will have a lot to do with your own experiences at that age or at least your sympathetic awareness of the difficulties that some of your classmates were experiencing. Meaning that if you don't connect and are not mildly blown away by the understated realism, then you and your friends simply weren't dysfunctional enough.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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on September 5, 2013
Tanner Hall (2009) was interestingly written by not one, but two women: Tatiana von Furstenberg, the daughter of Diane, and Francesca Gregorini. I serendipitously saw the movie at the 2010 Gen Art Movie Festival here in New York before it won the jury prize for best film.

There were two prominent age-discrepant relationships in the film. In the first part of the clip, boarding school student Victoria (Georgia King) starts part-two of the seduction of her English teacher, Mr. Middlewood (Chris Kattan). In the second part of the clip, Fernanda (Rooney Mara) begins an affair with Gio (Tom Everett Scott), the middle-aged husband of her mother's best friend from college.

As I mentioned in The Allure of Nymphets, unfortunately, Mr. Middlewood didn't handle his seduction well and due to anti-polygamy laws, Gio was forced to choose between his pregnant wife and the nymphet.
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on May 2, 2014
Actors did what they could with the script they were given. Not enough script background and uses lazy crutch of narration.
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