Tumbledown (2015)

Tumbledown (2015)
  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Music | Romance
  • Director: Sean Mewshaw
  • Cast: Joe Manganiello, Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis, Blythe Danner


Hannah (Hall) is beginning to move on with her life after the death of her husband, an acclaimed musician and the subject of her latest biography, when she meets Andrew (Sudeikis), a brash writer from New York, who has a different take on her husband’s life – and death. The unlikely pair must collaborate to put together the famous singer’s story and begin to write the next chapter of their lives.

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  • There’s plenty to appreciate in Tumbledown, beginning with the beauty of its Maine setting. Lensed by Seamus Tierney, the wintry vistas are enticing – one would readily believe that a singer-songwriter with a hugely admired album to his name would abandon city life to be surrounded by such loveliness.

    Of course, nature’s charms are not the only reason that folk musician Hunter Miles planted roots in Maine. There’s Hannah (Rebecca Hall) who, at the beginning of the film, is already a years-old widow. Hunter Miles is never seen, but he is very often heard (courtesy of Seattle musician Damien Jurado) and he looms large in Hannah’s present life. Hannah has marinated in her grief, which is enabled by her husband’s celebrity. Fans leave all manner of tributes at his grave and there’s robust speculation that Hunter’s fall into a ravine may have been more suicide than accident.

    Hannah is strongly protective of Hunter’s memory and legacy, but to her own detriment. How can she move on when she’s decided to write Hunter’s biography? She’s determined to get it done, but it’s no easy task. Then along comes Andrew McCabe (Jason Sudeikis), a scholar/writer/professor who is as determined to write the definitive version of Hunter’s life story. Hannah, who has ignored all his requests to gain access to Hunter’s drafts, journals, and letters, is riled by Andrew’s presence and is unrepentantly antagonistic, even going so far as to steal his notebook. He persists – “I want to make your husband immortal.” – and, when she realises that what he has written thus far is insightful and sensitive, Hannah relents, agreeing to let him co-author a biography and inviting him to move into her home during the writing presence.

    It’s a given that the two will bicker into bonding, but director Sean Mewshaw, who co-wrote the script with wife Desiree Van Til, utilises the template of a romantic comedy to disguise a fairly serious, character-driven drama. In fact, Tumbledown falters when it is most like a romantic comedy, especially in its use of its supporting characters such as Hannah’s friend with benefits (Joe Manganiello, wielding quite possibly the worst Maine accent ever heard) is predictably jealous of Andrew’s presence, or when Andrew’s music industry girlfriend (Dianna Agron) shows up at Hannah’s house. Such trite scenes are thankfully few and far between as the filmmakers are more focused on exploring their lead characters, their feelings about one another and, just as significantly, their feelings about Hunter.

    Both Hannah and Andrew are imbued with a complexity not often found in romantic comedies or romantic dramas, for that matter. There’s a believability to them – one believes that Andrew is utterly sincere in his intentions to venerate Hunter, but he is also more than willing to break Hannah’s already shaky trust in him to procure material for the book. His belief that Hunter may have killed himself, a belief borne from careful scrutiny of Hunter’s lyrics, is a convincing obstacle to the developing attraction between himself and Hannah. Even the last 15 minutes of the film, which includes Mewshaw’s variation of the typical lover’s chase, contains a remarkable level of honesty.

    Mewshaw is assisted enormously by Hall and Sudeikis, who are both in fine fettle. Hall is fierce and feisty, her Hannah is a handful for anyone who would love her. Sudeikis is really coming into his own as a leading man; he gets better and better with each film. There’s a depth and openness here that hasn’t been seen before – there may have been a flicker or two of it in Sleeping With Other People – and it really opens one’s eyes to what Sudeikis can do.

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