Runs Fri., Oct. 25–Thurs., Oct. 31 at Northwest Film Forum. Rated PG-13. 92 minutes.
Published in 1981 and now directed by her son, Lawrence Blume, Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes is a young-adult novel that puts death and grief squarely at its center. In her many books, so beloved by readers, she’s no less direct about fraught topics—including hormones, heartache, the treachery of friends, and the unreliability of family. Blume herself helped adapt this book to screen (it debuted on video in June), so no one can complain of insufficient fidelity to the source. This both is and isn’t a good thing.
On the plus side, the grieving 17-year-old Davey is played by young actress Willa Holland, who’s got marvelously expressive Audrey Hepburn eyes. She’s plunked down in Albuquerque with her little brother and pill-popping mother (Amy Jo Johnson) after the death of her father in a robbery back in Atlantic City. Davey is friendless in New Mexico and worried that her family will settle there. Forced into the local high school, which clique will she choose? (Not the medievalists! Ewww!) Before she can decide, teenage alcoholic Jane (Elise Eberle) latches onto her. And Davey’s home life is no less problematic, as the family is staying with her overbearing aunt and uncle (Cynthia Stevenson and Forrest Fyre). And more, she’s got to sing at the school talent show and volunteer at the hospital, where she befriends a wise, dying Indian (actor and activist Russell Means) who just happens to be the father of the handsome, soulful Wolf (Tatanka Means, son of Russell), a rock-climbing, Cal Tech–going Native American dreamboat! Who takes her to sacred caves and tribal ceremonies but never pressures her into sex!
OK, a little pruning would’ve helped Tiger Eyes, which also piles on the golden-lit flashbacks to Davey’s old life with her dad. But its melodrama is straightforward and its emotion genuine. Though set in the cell-phone present, the sentiment feels old-fashioned, untainted by snark or sarcasm. Your Facebooking daughters may be well past that point already, so the film’s best audience might be those women who adored the book 30 years ago. Hmm, speaking of Facebook, I wonder what Wolf is doing these days . . .