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Featured DVD Review: Tenderness

April 12th, 2010

Tenderness - Buy from Amazon

Russel Crowe has a number of smaller roles and bit parts in some movies that failed to generate much heat at the bxo office, but it wasn't till L.A. Confidential came around that most people noticed him. Two years after that, he earned an Oscar nomination for The Insider. A year after that, he won for Gladiator. And a year after that, he was nominated for the third time for A Beautiful Mind. However, since then his record with moviegoers has been a bit spotty with a number of films that have missed expectations, sometimes disastrously so. Even so, it is a surprise that Tenderness was released in just one theater over one weekend in December last year. Did the studio really have such little regard for the film that they didn't even bother trying to open it wide? If so, was this warranted?

The film stars Jon Foster as Eric Poole, who killed his parents three years ago and was tried as a juvenile defender because he was on anti-depressants at the time. Now that he's turned 18, he is being released to live with his aunt. Life on the outside takes some adjusting to, but he's planning on going to college and meeting a girl he met on the inside. However, his trip to meet her is complicated by Lori, a 16-year girl with a troubled past. Additionally, he is being followed by Detective Cristofuoro, who is convinced he's a true psychopath who will kill again. For nearly the entire movie, we see Eric and Lori on their road trip together as we are shown in flashbacks the events that led up to the crime. We learn about what makes her tick, the life Detective Cristofuoro is leading, etc. But mostly, we just look at our watches.

The film is described as a thriller on the DVD cover, but it moves at a glacial pace, which prevents any real tension from building up. Additionally, the information we see is not nearly as cleverly ambiguous as it needed to be. Sixteen minutes in, we see Eric in a flashback brushing a young lady with a red ribbon, the kind you win as a prize. I assume we are supposed to think this in an intimate moment between him and his girlfriend, but it is clear the first time we see this that she is dead. When a couple minutes later we see another flashback with his mother finding that ribbon, the obvious conclusion is that he killed his parents not because he was over-medicated, but because his mother learned what he did. If there were some questions as to his guilt, there would be something more interesting about this film. As it is, we just get to watch two damaged people on a road trip knowing there is an inevitable unhappy ending in store for them. On the other hand, at least there are some good performances in the movie from actors that have to deal with rather limited material to work with. This include three-time Oscar nominee Russel Crowe and relative newcomer Sophie Traub. But there's not enough here to hold your attention.

The only extra on the DVD is a 6-minute "making of" featurette called Finding Tenderness. It's your typical mix of talking heads, movie clips, and behind-the-scenes footage. It's not a bad featurette, but it is too short to be in-depth. As the only extra on the DVD, it is not enough.

The Verdict

Tenderness is a movie that can best be described as dull. Predictable and dull. Add in a DVD that is nearly devoid of extras, and unless you are a hardcore fan of Russel Crowe, this DVD is skippable.

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