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Tanner Hall


‘Tanner Hall’ puts the ‘bored’ in ‘boarding school.’

Rod Lott December 16th, 2011

It's difficult — as in, damn near impossible — to feel for the girls of "Tanner Hall."

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Stuck in an elite boarding school, they make outlandishly stupid decisions, manipulate one another, are cruel toward everybody, and generally are no fun to be around ... and then the film asks us to feel sorry for them.

At the center is Fernanda (Fernanda?), played by "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" herself, Rooney Mara, who's the closest thing the movie comes to offering a sympathetic character. And yet she's the one having an affair with a man (Tom Everett Scott, "Race to Witch Mountain") married to a good pal of Fernanda's mother.

Her dorm peers include Kate (Brie Larson, TV's "United States of Tara”), who pulls sexual pranks on her teacher (Chris Kattan, TV's "The Middle"); Victoria (Georgia King, "One Day"), the new British student who deceives her friends all in the name of fun; and Lucasta (Amy Robinson, "The Social Network"), who is in deni-- wait a minute: Lucasta? Who came up with these crazy names?

The answer: first-time writers/directors Tatiana von Furstenburg and Francesca Gregorini, who likely based this on their own private-school experiences and privileged upbringings as the daughters of, respectively, fashion designer/former princess Diane von Furstenburg and actress Barbara Bach, who later married Ringo Starr. Being awash in Beatle money has to eff up your worldview.

I don't fault the women for their job as directors; the film looks fine. It's the task of storytelling that leaves so much to be desired. Just because we're supposed to side with Fernanda doesn't mean we will, and we don’t. We’re not given any reason to, despite the likable Mara’s casting. (At first, I also was encouraged by Larson’s presence, but it’s now evident that she is one-note, doing the same smirky/snotty, better-than-you character in everything she’s in.)

The script is bound to reality, yet asks us to swallow that the woman in charge of the school (Amy Sedaris, “Puss in Boots”) engages in foreplay that doubles as a lesson in geography and world cultures. I don’t buy it.

Actually, I didn’t buy any of it, starting with the narrated proposition that “danger exists inside everybody.” It should just be “girls will be girls” — it gets no deeper than that. —Rod Lott


 
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