A review by Shlomoh Sherman
May 31, 2018
Read about The Tale On the Internet Movie Data Base
The Tale (2018)
Director: Jennifer Fox
Writer: Jennifer Fox
Stars: Elizabeth Debicki, Laura Dern, John Heard, Common
Plot Summary: An investigation into one woman's memory as she is forced to re-examine
her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.
Plot Keywords: repressed memories - woman - sexual child abuse
Genres: Drama - Mystery - Thriller
Parents Guide: See below
Country: USA - Germany
January 20, 2018 - USA - (Sundance Film Festival)
April 27, 2018 - USA - (Tribeca Film Festival)
May 26, 2018 - USA - (TV premiere)
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA, Shreveport, Louisiana, USA
Production Co: Gamechanger Films, A Luminous Mind Production, Blackbird Films, ONE TWO Films, Weather Vane Productions
Distributor: Home Box Office (HBO) (2018) (USA)
Runtime: 114 min
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
1 nomination: Sundance Film Festival, 2018 Nominee Jennifer Fox, Grand Jury Prize
Every Monday I search TV Guide to see which new movies will be on during the current week. Last week I saw that HBO was running a film done this year, THE TALE with Laura Dern. The preview said it was a story about a documentarian's self-investigation of events in her life as a young teen, and the possible devastating effects of those events on her life. I have been a fan of Laura Dern since she began her acting career, and of course, as I stated in my review of CHAPPAQUIDDICK, a fan of her father, Bruce Dern.
What I didn't realize was that this movie is very disturbing in many ways. It is essentially the story of the documentarian, Jennifer Fox's sexual abuse as a young child!
It was bad enough seeing this poor kid being molested but when, at the end of the movie, the audience discovers that this is a true story, you can understand how truly disturbing it is.
The fact is that the sex scenes between the 40-year-old man and the 13-year-year-old girl are both explicit and graphic, something I don't believe I have ever seen before in a movie.
I do not remember seeing Isabelle Nélisse, who plays the young Jenny, before but apparently I have since she appeared in 3 episodes of THE STRAIN as a young girl, Emma Arnot. She also appeared in the 2013 horror film, MAMA as well as the 2017 horror film, IT. Isabelle was born in 2003 so she is now 15 years old but on film, she appears younger, actually 13 which is probably why she was chosen to play the 13 year old girl in this movie. The L.A. Times reports that she was 11 years old when early filming began. I am aware that actors who are minors have to have parental consent to do any movie so I am wondering - what were her parents thinking when they okayed her playing a 13-year-old sexually mistreated by an adult man and his girlfriend?
Jenny is 13 years old, and her parents send her to a summer camp where she will learn to ride and be coached in running. Her 40-year-old track coach, Bill, slowly leads her into a sexual relationship with him. Jenny is naive and considers their romance to be consensual; she calls Bill her first boyfriend. Bill has a girlfriend, simply called Mrs.G, who is Jenny's riding instructor. We learn later in the film that it is Mrs.G who procures young girls for Bill, and who encourages the girls to have threesomes with her and Bill.
It is when Jennifer is in her 40s that she realizes that the relationship was one of sexual abuse. Her memory of the childhood experience begins to alter when her mother, wonderfully played by Ellen Burstyn, is cleaning the house and stumbles across a story written by the young Jenny about her summer experience with Bill and Mrs.G. When confronted by her mother about the story, Jennifer begins a dialogue with her mother and begins a journey to find Bill and Mrs.G in order to confront them and to learn about their own memories of that summer and to understand what motivated two adults to take advantage of the innocence of a teenage girl.
Jennifer's fiance feels protective of her and cautions her to go slowly, and even wants to accompany her in her search for the sexual criminals. But she refuses his help, telling him that she has to do this on her own.
With the emotional support of her mother, Jennifer pursues the two who violated her and finally meets up with Bill at a party in which he is being honored as a teacher of children. The scene is explosive. I urge you to see the film for yourself - but be warned. What you have read here is true. So if you think that watching a 40-year-old child molester doing his dirty work will upset you, leave the room during those scenes. Believe me. They upset me plenty.
Toward the end of the film, there is a scene in which Jennifer confronts her 13-year-old self about her involvement with Bill. Jenny retorts, "You want me to be some pathetic victim. Well, you know what? I'm not. I'm not the victim of this story, I'm the hero. He fell apart, not me."
Below is an excerpt from NJ Walker's IMDB May 27, 20180 review:
Discovering the truth -
KUDOS TO Jason Ritter for playing the loathsome Bill effectively; Jason is the son of John Ritter.
Trivia: This was John Heard's final film. I report with sorrow that he died July 21, 2017. The film's release date was January of 2018.
PARENTS GUIDE FOR THE TALE (2018)
MPAA Rated PG-13
Violence & Gore:
Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking:
Frightening & Intense Scenes:
Spoilers - This Parents Guide item below may give away important plot points.
Will acclaimed turn in ‘The Tale’ earn Ellen Burstyn her ninth Emmy Awards nomination?
The Los Angeles Times had the following to say about THE TALE -
The scenes of Bill creepily seducing Jennifer in a series of carefully orchestrated moves are infuriating and horrific. Writer-director Fox refuses to take the comfortable route by only hinting at the physical abuse. (Adult body doubles were used for the rape scenes.) The moment when the adult Jennifer sees Bill (now played by John Heard) for the first time in 35 years is brutal and raw and uncompromising.
'The Tale' Jennifer Fox on Putting Herself in This True Story, Choosing HBO Over Theaters, and What's Next?
Read about The Tale On the Internet Movie Data Base
Elizabeth Debicki ... Mrs. G
Laura Dern ... Jennifer
John Heard ... Bill - Older
Jason Ritter ... Bill
Ellen Burstyn ... Nettie
Frances Conroy ... Mrs. G - Older
Common ... Martin
Laura Allen ... Nadine
Chelsea Alden ... Samantha
Isabella Amara ... Franny
Isabelle Nélisse ... Jenny
Matthew Rauch ... Aaron
Tina Parker ... Fran
Jaqueline Fleming ... Margie
Scott Takeda ... Mr. Watada
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