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A Smart Romantic Comedy-Drama: “Tumbledown”

Indie films like Tumbledown deserve all the breaks they can get. This one rewards the viewer with a typically fine performance by Rebecca Hall and a revelatory one by Jason Sudeikis, whom we usually associate with comedy. He hasn’t abandoned his sense of humor here—in fact, it lightens the movie just when it needs it—but he shows colors we haven’t seen before and points to a rich film career ahead. (He is also playing Jesse Owens’ coach Larry Snyder in Race, which opens on Friday.)

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Courtesy of Starz Digital Media

         Tumbledown is a debut feature for director Sean Mewshaw, whose wife Desiree van Til wrote the screenplay. It is all the more impressive for that, as they create credible characters and a strong sense of place, namely New England. Sudeikis plays a writer who pursues the widow of a legendary folk singer-songwriter who lives in isolation. She is hyper-protective of her husband’s work, especially some tapes he left behind, but Sudeikis is nothing if not persistent… and not surprisingly, a relationship develops between the two.

A strong supporting cast includes Joe Mangianello, Dianna Agron, Blythe Danner, Richard Masur, and the always-welcome Griffin Dunne. I sawTumbledown at the Savannah Film Festival last fall, and my fellow jurors and I were unanimous in voting it Best Picture. It’s a small-scale endeavor but we found it thoroughly satisfying. You can watch it on VOD right now, but it’s also playing in theaters.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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