BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
AUGUST 21, 2010
Certain films, it appears, exist solely to tease viewers into craving the superior movies in an actor’s annals, all while being forced to endure the detrimental ventures of said actor. “Tenderness” is one of those films. Russell Crowe stars as Lt. Cristofuoro, yet the entire movie, I could not help but re-imagine all the better performances Crowe has delivered throughout his career. The first question that comes to mind is why, at this point in Crowe’s career, would he submit himself to such a low-end production? Crowe, known for his award earning roles in films like “Gladiator,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and “Cinderella Man,” and most recently gracing films like “State of Play,” “3:10 to Yuma,” and “Body of Lies.” Yet, with such a padded resume, Crowe finds himself in this uninspiring indie piece. The second question regards John Polson and his misfire, coming off the undeniable successes of his first films, “Hide & Seek,” and a personal favorite, “Swimfan.”
Now, don’t get me wrong; I enjoy many indie films and feel like the roles that major actors play in them are most often career highlights. “Tenderness,” on the other hand, fails to register as meaningful or display any hint of originality. So then why would Crowe sign on for such a project when his last film, “Robin Hood,” continued his streak of epicness. Not that it holds much weight, but in scanning for an answer, Wikipedia brought to attention the fact that Crowe only agreed to take on the film after adding his suggestions to the role and pulling for a different narrative for the film.
“Tenderness” had such potential with the Russell Crowe factor and the striking artwork on the case, but the promotional team wins once again. The story follows an 18-year-old boy, Eric (Jon Foster), after being released from juvenile detention to murder his parents. Believing the boy has killed more than his parents and convinced he would murder again, Crowe’s character follows the boy in an attempt to elicit a response from the boy he brought to justice initially. Sophie Traub plays 16-year-old Lori, who is in a constant state of emotional abuse, from her boss masturbating to her in his office to her mother’s boyfriend watching her in the shower. Aware that Eric is to be released, she finds a way to hide in his vehicle and ventures, willingly, with the would-be murder through the countryside.
The constant struggle for Eric not to kill again is the only gripping portion of the film. In emotional disarray, Foster’s character is the only one that appears three dimensional. Though conflicted, Traub’s performance fails to register on any different level besides willing and desperate, traits unbefitting such an emotionally resonant character. By the end, the performances lack so much that you can’t expect much from the climax.
“Tenderness” will become infamous, a black mark on an otherwise clean slated Russell Crowe and John Polson, proving Crowe should stick to the meaningful pieces and Polson should stick to television (“Fringe,” “FlashForward,” “The Mentalist”). The film is successful in one facet, and that is beaming light on the rest of Crowe’s catalog and causing a subtle craving for one of his better endeavors. This viewer will turn to my favorites of Crowe’s, like “A Beautiful Mind” and “3:10 to Yuma,” and look forward to his upcoming suspense thriller “The Next Three Days.” Ultimately, indie films take a gamble. And like in Vegas, you win some, and you lose some.
December 11, 2009
by Robert Cormier
(for disturbing violent and sexual content, and language)
Lisa Zeno Churgin