Monday, August 14, 2017

Tumbledown (2015)


Tumbledown had elements I liked. There’s a small town; writers for protagonists; a musician with a cult following; and grief. If done right, any one of those can make a compelling love story but sadly they were not wrapped up into one coherent story.

Hannah Miles (Rebecca Hall), a widow, lives alone with her two dogs up in small town in Maine. Two years ago, Hunter Miles her musician husband died, and since then she has been trying to write a biography about him. 

Considering the project her romantic life is atrocious. She goes out to the cemetery for relaxation, cleaning the gravestone of flowers and other memorabilia placed there by fans. For a side gig she also writes for a town paper.

This dead musician also drew in a professor of American Studies Andrew McCabe (Jason Sudeikis) to the small town. He wants to write a book on music with Hunter Miles front and center. Hannah refuses at first, distrustful that anyone but herself can see her husband in the right way. Later she hires him.

I love the small town atmosphere. Put in contrast with city life, small town scenes usually evoke feelings of nostalgia since usually the protagonist from the city started once from a small town, so going back is to look inward. Sometimes it’s about the impersonal city and the more intimate town where people can keep track of anyone; hence the outsider changes how he relates to people.

For Tumbledown there were city vs small town conflict scenes but was no explanation why it came to be and neither was it resolved. Andrew is a writer, a solitary job; no one should know him. He was never from the town so how did it elicit a specific response of the gap between city and small town dweller.

In one scene, Hannah’s father Bruce (Richard Masur) took it negatively when Andrew insinuated that Hunter was a suicide. Bruce can be just insulted; to say that a death is a suicide is an accusation which opens up questions than the finality of an accident. 

But he wasn’t just insulted; Bruce took it as a slight to his upbringing in a small town that a suicide, a loved one in pain, was missed. Andrew just gave his opinion never mentioning any special big city New York privilege might have given him special insight.

Curtis (Joe Manganiello) declared that a local man toughened by the mountains was more appropriate for Hannah’s affections than city folk or flatlanders as he called it. Curtis marking his territory by insulting Andrew makes sense. Then again even Hannah was playing the city dwellers are pussies card. 


It begs the question though, why Hannah did say that she did not belong to anybody, especially if she still grieved the loss of her husband. The fuck buddy and the writer she hired were about to lock horns and she didn’t clear the air?

From the time Andrew and Curtis first met until to the point Andrew confesses his feelings, the relationship has always been professional. The professor was always trying to sound smart with big words like deconstruction of American music and all that. He declared to Curtis he was staking no claim to Hannah. I was  expecting at certain points only the book to finish.

Nothing came of the book. I didn’t hear any of its passages read out loud, not even Andrew’s first draft which supposedly won Hannah over. I did not even get to see a collaboration scene where Andrew and Hannah are working together and exchanging ideas.

Without scenes working on the book there is also no opportunity to get to know Hunter Miles. No mention of his previous songs and why it became cult hits. There was talk of disappointment and fascination that a musical talent disappeared.

Collaboration scenes provide a journey inward, conflict, until eventually the meeting of minds if not love. What happened was more Hannah worked alone and then Andrew worked alone, they passed notes in between.

The only scene they talked about Hunter in depth was also the only time Andrew and Hannah lock horns. Amounting to the climax, Andrew expressed his idea that Hunter had killed himself and as expected he was sent away. Hannah was insulted, hurt that her husband was misunderstood.

Like all the elements mentioned before, the suicide angle, an issue that could have worsened or ended the grief, went unresolved. Andrew and Hannah didn’t talk how they can move on from the heated exchange they just moved on.

It’s as if they fell in love without a reason, or worse, they fell in love with issues unresolved - like the audience. 

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