By Gia Pilgrim Charles, Vice President
As I sit at Soup For You typing this review, it’s hard to believe that the little town that we attend classes in was just recently featured in a Hollywood production. Tumbledown, the dark romantic comedy written by Farmington native, Desi Van Til, has become a big hit in our community and nationwide. Now, thousands of people from all over the world will get to witness Western Maine and the downtown businesses that we all know so well.
When I interviewed Van Til over a year ago at a UMF Visiting Writers Series, she explained that the film was a story she wanted to tell, not sell; since there were many autobiographical elements that were implemented in the script. From then, I’ve been anticipating the film that she had described as, “a love letter to her home state of Maine.” And so, I watched and waited to see Farmington on the big screen.
As I watched the movie from beginning to end, I had this uncanny feeling about the setting. It seemed like Farmington, yet felt completely different – probably because much of the movie was filmed in other places that evoked the New England feel, such as Massachusetts and Vancouver. There were scenes shot on top of Bald Mountain, in Weld, and downtown Farmington which made it genuinely authentic in places, especially since I spied my Subaru with all its bumper stickers in the downtown scene (why did I park like such an idiot that day?!). Maybe it’s also because I can’t imagine big name actors such as Jason Sudekis, Dianna Agron, Joe Manganiello, and Rebecca Hall actually existing in our small town.
Though generally not a fan of romantic comedies, I enjoyed the plot. I thought Van Til created a tragic and beautiful tale of grief and moving on from the loss of a loved one. The script was incredibly well written, making me laugh out loud in some places, and then feeling crestfallen in others. The main characters were complex; both had history of loss and suffering which made their awkward – and sometimes volatile – courtship entertaining. One criticism I do have to mention, are the “Mainer” accents that sounded more like over-the-top Boston accents from some of the actors. If they were going to implement the accents in the movie, I wish that they could have gotten them right, or just not at all, since it took away from the authentic feel of the setting.
But there were many elements that felt true to the area which I appreciated: the folksiness, L.L. Bean boots, the small community barn party (“all of Farmington’s gonna be there!”), the diner scene (which has to represent the late Farmington Diner), and the eccentric side characters that definitely remind me of Farmington folk. Van Til had said, “there are so many great voices in this town and I wanted to celebrate that,” and after watching it, I felt like she succeeded in doing so. My favorite character was the mother of Rebecca Hall’s character, played by Blythe Danner who fully embodies the eccentric New England mother, especially when she blurts out the line, “Well, fuckadoodledoo!” Both Danner and Joe Magnaniello’s character provided excellent comic relief.
Overall, I wish more of the movie could have been shot in Farmington and the surrounding area so that it felt more familiar, but we can’t blame Van Til and Director Sean Mewshaw for that; the taxes on filming in Maine are enormous. But anyone who has hiked Tumbledown mountain, or has spent too long browsing books at Devany, Doak and Garrett, or simply appreciates the community and nature of Western Maine, should definitely watch Tumbledown. Not only is it a great movie to snuggle up after a long wintery day and share with a sweetie, but it evokes the very town in which we live and work in today.