From clownish supporting player to serious actor and finally the romantic lead, Jason Sudeikis' career evolution has been brisk and surprisingly rewarding. He turns on the charm and melts Rebecca Hall's heart in the downbeat yet engaging dramedy, Tumbledown, one of those small, unassuming films that looms larger upon reflection than when it's unfolding in front of you.
It's fitting for a film that centers on the life and legacy of a deceased folk singer, Hunter Miles, who composed one "perfect" album before meeting his end in a freak hiking accident. He not only left behind the musical sound that captivated writer/professor/superfan Andrew McCabe (Sudeikis), but he also left behind a widow, Hannah (Hall), who remains in their small-town home with rememberances of him everywhere. She frequently visits his grave, even if just to watch the many visitors leave behind gifts in his honor, and she's trying to write a biography on Hunter that just isn't going well. Enter Andrew, who breezes in from New York like a house afire with a similar idea. Naturally, Andrew and Hannah don't get along at first; he's too forceful while she's too protective and buried in her own grief.
Does this eventually turn into a very familiar romantic comedy? Of course it does, but director Sean Mewshaw, who co-wrote the script with his wife Desiree Van Til, take their time getting to that point. Instead, the pair allow for Hannah and Andrew to explore their feelings surrounding Hunter. What is the reason for Andrew's hero worship and does it extend beyond the music? Why is Hannah so afraid to let go and move on. The answers don't come easy and there are a few emotional landmines littered in both of their paths.
Hall has starred in many a film like this before, but as Hannah she gets to play a funnier, more aggressively flawed character than usual. She makes for a solid comic foil to Sudeikis who, while still a little slick, manages to give a more sensitive performance. Other supporting turns don't work out quite so well. Joe Manganiello and puts on his idea of a New England accent as a husky local jealous of Andrew's friendship with Hannah. Dianna Agron as Andrew's rude girlfriend and Blythe Danner as Hannah's mother-in-law don't get much to work with, either. Also, a final act twist feels like a belated and unnecessary attempt to make Hunter more significant by putting him in the same league as Kurt Cobain and other musicians who died young. Up to that point Tumbledown had done a good job of making Hunter's presence felt and the impact of his music obvious on those who loved him.
Rating: 3 out of 5