‘Tiger Eyes’: better as a book?
A 2½-star review of the screen adaptation of Judy Blume’s young-adult novel “Tiger Eyes.”
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Tiger Eyes,’ with Willa Holland, Tatanka Means, Elise Eberle, Amy Jo Johnson, Cynthia Stevenson, Forrest Fyre, Teo Olivares, Russell Means. Directed by Lawrence Blume, from a screenplay by Judy Blume and Lawrence Blume, based on the novel by Judy Blume. 92 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic material including a violent incident, and some teen drinking. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
Those of us who grew up with Judy Blume have long wondered: Why have none of her books made it to the big screen? “Tiger Eyes,” a sweet but unmemorable drama about a teenage girl coping with terrible loss, reminds us why: Blume’s heroines, thoughtful and reflective girls whose personalities are kept carefully generic (the better for the young reader to identify herself with), tend to have internal journeys, the kind that don’t easily lend themselves to film.
Published in 1981, “Tiger Eyes” is the story of 15-year-old Davey (made slightly older for the movie, and played by Willa Holland), who must leave her Atlantic City home after her father is killed in a violent robbery of his convenience store. With her near-catatonic mother Gwen (Amy Jo Johnson) and little brother Jason (Lucien Dale), she moves to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to live with a protective aunt (Cynthia Stevenson) and stern uncle (Forrest Fyre). Lonely and troubled, Davey meets a mysterious young man who calls himself Wolf (Tatanka Means), who in time helps her come to terms with her loss.
Directed by Blume’s son Lawrence (who wrote the screenplay, with his mother), “Tiger Eyes” makes some significant changes from the book, most notably that Davey and Wolf’s interactions are more frequent and more verbal, and that Wolf’s Native American heritage, unstated in the book, is more overt. (A problem: Means, who is in his late 20s, looks so much older than Holland that their connection, though quite innocent, seems a little off-putting; the character’s supposed to be college-age.) Lessons are gently learned, and Davey realizes that life goes on. It’s a pleasant-enough movie, but offers little that the book doesn’t give its readers; far too quickly, it fades away.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org