Film Review: Tuck Everlasting
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How far would you go for love? Would you choose to be immortal if you would remain physically the same as you are now, forever? These two questions are tied together in Tuck Everlasting.
I have never read the 1975 book by Natalie Babbitt, so I can't compare it to the film, a confluence of the sufficient script by Jeffrey Lieber and James V. Hart, tight directing by Jay Russel, and excellent acting by just about everyone.
Tuck Everlasting isn't burning up the box office or garnering many raves from major critics. But then, it doesn't feature a middle-aged man fantasizing about a teenager, parents and ministers harboring deep dark secrets & behaving malevolently towards youngsters, teenagers doing strange things with desserts, protracted gory battlefield scenes, self-aware cynicism, bald guys performing stunts with sports cars, big fat Greek anything, or CGI monsters, aliens or superheroes. It doesn't feature titillation, gross-out humor, or political propaganda. It does have a slight hint of "religious people are ignorant and intolerant", but not nearly enough to garner those critical raves.
It also features seriously talented actors in a simple, straightforward, solid fantasy. It's a film you can take your kids to, though anyone younger than a preteen may be bored unless they are comparing it to their school-required reading of the book. This one is especially made for girls. Alexis Bledel (WB Network's Gilmore Girls), whom I find much more captivating than the likes of any number of Hollywood's current anointed young divas, has taken the role of another bright young woman, Winnifred Foster. Her family is absurdly wealthy, and if there's anything films like Titanic have taught us, it is that young, bright, beautiful women in early twentieth century high society are tormented by their safe, scripted life, preferring to run around with scruffy rebel boys of modest means. While most of the audience will have hard time relating to her dread of the tyranny of wealth, they will identify with her desire to play, to live in way different than being a prim, aloof young lady learning the piano while constricted in her corset.
Winnie would rather play baseball in the dirt, even if she is wearing nice clothes, than sit around looking rich. Her parents (Amy Irving, Victor Garber, playing characters we don't get to learn enough about), recognizing the danger in her free spirit -presumably, the danger is that she won't attract a wealthy and refined suitor- tell her she's going to a school where she'll be broken and learn to behave. She finds this even worse than sitting in a nice house on a gigantic estate, so she runs away in a tantrum, into the woods that are part of her family's massive property.
Getting lost in the forest, Winnie stumbles across Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson, who played Lucky Spencer on General Hospital, and was in Deep End of the Ocean). The Tucks are a family of modest means who have been living in solitude and anonymity on what is the increasingly rare undeveloped portion of the Foster property. Winnie soon finds herself hiding out with the family, frolicking innocently with the younger of the two sons, apparently forgetting or uncaring that her parents are worried sick about her, not knowing if she is even alive.
The Tucks are aware of her identity, but they don't send her back right away because they are trying to protect a dangerous secret. However, the certainty that her parents will be looking for her has accelerated the problem of the impending encroachment of civilization on their hideaway and the secret they are guarding. Sissy Spacek plays Mae Tuck, the kindly mother of the family, William Hurt is Angus Tuck, the stern, responsible father, and Scott Bairstow plays Miles Tuck, the suffering, bitter older brother. The Tucks were not faced with the same choice that Winnie is faced with, but they can provide an example to her of what awaits her if she voluntarily takes on the same thing they unwittingly acquired.