Directed by Gary Winick, starring Aaron Stanford, Sigourney Weaver, Bebe Neuwirth and John Ritter.
The Americans hate the French these days, or so we're told. Somebody must have forgot to tell Gary Winick. If they had, it's unlikely that this Francophile low-budget feature would ever have got made.
'Tadpole' is the story of 15-year-old Oscar (Stanford), that stereotypical film character: a precocious boy who tastes the world of adult pleasure a little too early for comfort. The son of a sophisticated Manhattan divorcee (Ritter), Oscar soon finds himself with a difficult problem. As an early developer, he finds women his own age dull and inexperienced.
Instead, he has fallen helplessly in love with his stepmother, Eve (Weaver). As he daydreams of his father's wife, he finds himself entangled with her sexy best friend Diane (Neuwirth). Diane promises to keep quiet about their encounter, but finds it more difficult than she expected, wickedly promising that "Mum's the word". Indeed.
This edgy knot of sexual taboos and highbrow conversation is classic French sex comedy material, transposed to a New York setting. As if the subject matter wasn't enough, the film is interrupted by full-screen quotes from Oscar's favourite writer, Voltaire, and the over-educated protagonists often converse in French. This groan-making pretentiousness, mixed with its cheap and blurry digital cinematography, makes 'Tadpole' difficult to watch at times, but the essential dramatic tensions are enough to pull the film through.
Although billed as a comedy, there are not many laughs in 'Tadpole'. Instead, the superb performances of the trio making up the central love triangle are enough to engage attention. Neuwirth in particular is alluringly mischievous as the foxy older woman, while Stanford turns in an utterly believable performance in the lead role.
Although intermittently dull, there are enough moments to make 'Tadpole' one of the more charming recent American indie films, particularly given its admirably brief running time. "It's all very 'The Graduate'," mutters Oscar's despairing father at one stage. It is, but none the worse for it.