Why Mia Tarlov’s ‘C’mon C’mon’ is, as far as teen and first features go, a dud

As the trailer for C’mon C’mon, the half-baked first feature film from Mia Tarlov, rapidly rose to Twitter popularity a few weeks ago, it became clear that C’mon C’mon is a film for teenage girls, and everybody knows it. At least that was what I assumed until I read Tarlov’s interview with The New York Times Magazine (part of a major profile done on her recently). While the film certainly seems to have sparked heated debates on the internet, I think it’s an insight into what a tough parenting job is and it would be a mistake to pigeonhole it into the niche of the “talk about your kid” collection.

Tarlov, a poet and playwright, had been writing dialogue and script drafts for six years before casting her teenage daughter, Annabelle, as the lead. Casting a child actress was a high-risk strategy, as the New York Times suggests, and Tarlov was hoping for “doubters” and “snobs” with an “idiosyncratic point of view.” Her casting agent called her “cute, innocent, innocent, pure, exquisite.”

Annabelle, age 12, had been acting in Tarlov’s plays for at least three years when Tarlov first approached her for the part. She was nervous.

“I didn’t want to be the child actress,” she told the Times. “I have never felt like a child actor, either. But I was looking at Annabelle and I thought she was gorgeous. So I felt like if I wasn’t going to be the daughter, I would at least be the daughter of a great actress.”

Playing the part on the sly, she read “C’mon C’mon” and accidentally a did a voicemail for the role before checking herself out for the first time. Tarlov, who wrote the role with the same ambitious spirit that inspired her to write Wild Blue Yonder (her other Oscar-nominated screenplay about a young boy and his whale), describes Annabelle as “an amazing actress” and that she was only 24 when she made the film. We still won’t know if she is as good an actress as her mother because C’mon C’mon is not a great acting job, but it’s hard to tell from the trailers.

While talking to the Times, Tarlov, who has no children of her own, believes she may have done a better job as a parent raising her daughter than as a parent of an adult child. Tarlov doesn’t like it when children call her “mom” for fear that it’s going to make them “shit their pants.” With a zen-like calm, she says, “They can learn from me. I’m a very open person. People who don’t know me tend to wonder how calm I am, and I don’t feel nervous.”

As Tarlov told the Times, the film’s humor is a welcome antidote to the earnestness and predictability of most “girl” films, but the tone, though comforting in places, is really not up to snuff. Annabelle’s dad and her barely-there mom (played by Tarlov, with Yvonne Strahovski as the mother, Lauren Ambrose as the father, and newcomer Abigail Pniowsky as the teen, Charli XCX-voiced “Cat”) are given too little to do and try too hard. The film’s villainess is a woman who experiences the world through the lens of her sixth grade love triangle. And Tarlov, like so many of her peers, seems to have a pet anthropomorphic penguin on the sidelines. C’mon C’mon is a missed opportunity. The answer, if this trailer is any indication, is an extraordinary amount of patience, heart and black humour.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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