Russell Crowe continues to amaze with his performance as an obsessed retired cop who has nothing better to do than follow 18-year-old released murderer Eric Poole (Jon Foster). Eric unknowingly has a troubled teen (Sophie Traub) as a traveling companion, but the young girl seems to know him from somewhere. The mystery deepens, as Detective Cristofuoro (Crowe) is constantly one-step behind the pair on this road trip, fearful that the young psychopath will kill again.
Tenderness is a very misleading title for this movie. It should be called “Scary Road Trip” or something more suitable for the movie. Tenderness as a name makes me think “chick-flick” and this movie is certainly not that. It is not all-out horror either. The mystery slowly unravels with drama in-between.
In comparison, Tenderness has kind of a Sling Blade feel story-wise, but with a darker feel and more of a lingering threat of violence. There is no comedy like Sling Blade, but the character build-up and pace of story-telling is the same. The mystery of the characters motivations holds your interest as their background is slowly explained. You’re not quite certain where all this is going, but as time goes on you feel seduced by the characters and story. Eric’s struggles to become a solid citizen is tempted to return to his dark ways by Lori’s (Traub) youth and confrontational behavior, he keeps trying to rid himself of her only to have her cling to him tighter.
Crowe manages to stay in the background through much of the film, being subtle as much as possible, letting the audience and characters believe he is a pushover. This is a perfect example of Crowe showing strength in character without being over-the-top. It works well for him here to be subtle just like pacing yourself in a long distance race is better than going all-out the whole race. There is a certain kinship between his character and the movie-going audience. You want to see him succeed in preventing Eric Poole from killing Lori but you just don’t know if he can get there in time, or if he is even capable of preventing the tragedy he fears will come true. It only took Crowe nine days to film his scenes, but he made the best of them.
The film lives on it’s ability to contrast normal life with the suspense from the past and the possibilities of bad things happening in the present. A perfect example is a rest-stop scene that heightens the suspense to a heart-stopping degree. If you care for the characters, which you should if you like this kind of movie, you fear what could happen in this scene, but you can’t help but watch.
The drawbacks to Tenderness are the slow moments that could be edited out. In repeated viewings you ask yourself if this scene is necessary or that scene is important to the story. Editing is where you make those decisions and there is some faulty editing sprinkled in the movie, not to a degree that makes you hate the movie, but to the point where you might get a little bored at times. Thankfully those moments are few and far between and come later in the movie between Eric and Lori.
Tenderness will not be everyone’s flavor, which is why I recommend a rental first. If you are a die-hard Crowe fan you might want to wait until you can find this cheap. It’s worthy of a buy, but only if you aren’t too picky about the movies you own.
DVD Special Features -
· “Finding Tenderness: Bringing the novel to the screen” featurette
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