Mother and daughter pack up from hillbilly land and head for California: Does it sound like we've been over this ground before?
The similarities between Tumbleweeds and Anywhere But Here (the corpse of which is not even cold) are astonishing. In Tumbleweeds, Mom Mary Jo (McTeer) is a put-upon single mother; daughter Ava (Brown) is brash and headstrong. The two drive to California, intent on "starting over," -- in the case of Tumbleweeds, an escape from physical abuse, or at least the threat of it. Anywhere But Here: same story, sans the abuse.
Both films bumble through experiences with lovers (mother and daughter), school, work, and the other rigors of daily life, eventually focusing on the relationship between mom and kid.
The former movie was a piece of junk, and Tumbleweeds is not a terribly better movie than the disaster of Anywhere But Here. It's safe to say that your feelings about one will apply to the other. Tumbleweeds does manage to redeem itself above its competitor, though. For starters, cross-eyed British actress McTeer does an astonishing job at playing West Virginian. Brown's Ava is sure to launch her on a Jena Malone-path to child stardom. And the supporting characters are universally good in this film, unlike the former.
But perhaps the most astonishing facet of Tumbleweeds is the discovery that it was co-written and directed by one Gavin O'Connor, who turns out to play the post-dumb, not-quite-abusive truck driver boyfriend from whom Mary Jo and Ava eventually run away. That alone makes Tumbleweeds interesting as a curiosity. O'Connor should be put in a museum next to Forest Whitaker.
In the film, these tumbleweeds ultimately have to decide whether or not to settle down, and that at least gives the movie some closure. The story along the way is choppy and predictable, with the exception of a few gross-out moments: I'm quite sure I could have done without the mother-daughter farting scene.
Get them dogies rollin'.