Tiger Eyes (2012)
★ / ★★★★
A sudden death in the family has left a young mother (Amy Jo Johnson) of two emotionally and psychologically unable to deal with crippling grief. Gwen decides it might be a good idea to stay with her sister (Cynthia Stevenson) so family will be around to support her and the children, Davey (Willa Holland) and Jason (Lucien Dale), with the transition. But Gwen is not the only one severely hurting. Davey is so traumatized by the murder of her father that she feels disconnected from everyone. The plan is to stay in Los Alamos, New Mexico for about a week but Aunt Bitsy insists Gwen needs more time to recover.
“Tiger Eyes” is based on the novel by Judy Blume and it is most disappointing that the screenplay is malnourished in nuance. The central emotion is grief but the scenes are almost always so brief to the point of frustration—like the picture is afraid to dig deeply. What should be an emotionally cathartic journey of a teenager who had lost someone she loves in the blink of the eye is reduced to a series of episodes where the performer appears convincing in looking sad but the character is badly drawn.
The picture uses pop music numerously and it is highly inappropriate. For instance, when Davey and her family are in the car with Aunt Bitsy and Uncle Walter (Forrest Frye), the music suggests that the family is some sort of vacation where fun is going to be right around the bend. But the majority of the film is about death and mourning.
Another example in which the music gets in the way of creating a convincing tone or mood involves Davey being alone with her thoughts—whether she is sitting in her room, riding a bike, or exploring the canyons. Why not eliminate the background noise altogether and simply allow the lead character—and the audience—to deal with the silence? Davey is depressed; certainly music is not playing in her head. If anything, her body might be in one place but her mind is completely somewhere else. As a result, the inappropriate music suggests that the director, Lawrence Blume, who also wrote the screenplay, is not confident in what is put on screen. The pop music is a crutch.
Davey eventually meets a Native American who introduces himself as Wolf (Tatanka Means). Though I have not read the book, I still got the impression that what the two share is supposed to be special—even life-changing. However, the film fails to communicate what makes the relationship memorable. Wolf and Davey have a few nice scenes where the girl is invited to learn more about the former’s culture and ancestry, but when one looks at the big picture, he is doing most, if not all, of the sharing. Why is she important to him? To make a friendship believable, it needs to be a two-way street.
A subplot involves Davey’s friend from school named Jane (Elise Eberle). The alcoholism is not dealt with directly or with enough insight to the point where the whole thing ends up being comical at times. When pressure gets to be too much, Davey turns to isolation while Jane turns to hard liquor. More parallels ought to have been drawn between the two girls. Although they are very different, there must be a reason why they keep hanging out. What are these reasons? It is critical that we know. Otherwise, the friendship comes across shallow.
“Tiger Eyes” suffers from a lot of missing pieces. I did not even touch upon the relationship between Davey and her younger brother, how she expects him to cope the way that she does, or the increasingly uncomfortable living situation between guests and hosts. Neither is developed enough to reach a semblance of completion or arc.