Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tanner Hall, dir/wr. Tatiana von Fürstenberg, Francesca Gregorini, st. Rooney Mara, Brie Larson, Georgia King

Before Lisbeth Salander and impending plum roles, Rooney Mara played Fernanda, a callow and scholarly student at Tanner Hall, an exclusive and hermetic private boarding school secluded away in leafy New England. Her cohorts include troubled childhood troublemaker Victoria (King), lascivious Kate (Larson) and uncertain tomboy Lucasta (Amy Ferguson). Between them they seduce teachers, steal out of school to local fairs, smoke pot, engage in the carnal embracing of older family friends and generally come of age together. Fürstenberg and Gregorini's 2009 film meanders through a hesitant middle-ground between Dead Poets Society and Rushmore, neither possessing enough of the latter's offbeat charm nor the former's down-the-line drama. There's a story in there somewhere, and the girls' isolation and general quasi-Lynchian quality of the dilapidated school itself gives the film an almost Picnic At Hanging Rock vibe, but it's badly let down by pedestrian narrative developments and MOR soundtracking. Mara road-tests her oscillating vacant/engaged style of performance that makes her so compelling to watch, but any real conflict in the film, like the rest of the pupils or staff, is curiously absent.