Touching look at tough mom-daughter relationship.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although the mother portrayed in Tumbleweeds can be irresponsible, viewers never doubt that she loves her daughter and wants her to be happy. Still, because of her poor decisions and erratic lifestyle, Mary Jo does cause instability and emotional trauma in her daughter's life. There also are some scenes with mild violence and sexuality, such as when a couple has a heated, potentially physical argument and when a preteen girl comes home from school to find her mother making out with a strange man. Some strong language, including "f--k" and "goddamn."
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What's the Story?
After another relationship inevitably goes south for her, free-spirited single mother Mary Jo Walker (Janet McTeer) packs up everything -- including her 12-year-old daughter, Ava (Kimberly J. Brown) -- and takes to the road, running from town to town in search of the next man in her life. They make their way to San Diego, where Mary Jo takes up with a trucker (Gavin O'Connor) who turns out to be aggressive and mean-spirited. Meanwhile, Ava, tired of a life of constant upheaval, tries to settle in at her new school and even auditions for the lead in the school play. Mary Jo's instinct to flee becomes a problem for Ava, who just wants a place to call home.
Is It Any Good?
McTeer instills Mary Jo Walker with an earthy, Southern-fried sexiness. She's obviously had a hardscrabble life, but it hasn't robbed her of optimism or whimsy. As Ava, Brown deftly handles her role as a typical preadolescent who loves being silly but who must also serve as the voice of reason for her charmingly irresponsible mother. Their moments together seem genuine and are the highlights of the film, whether they're rehearsing lines from Ava's school play or singing the fitting song "Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" as they drive toward a new life.
Their relationship is the heart of the movie, although the supporting cast is great, including Jay O. Sanders as Dan, a sweet and sensitive co-worker who is haunted by his past; Laurel Holloman as Laurie, Mary Jo's friend and hangout buddy; and O'Connor, who brings some depth (insecurity, self-consciousness) to his portrayal of the macho, controlling Dan. Families will enjoy watching Mary Jo "grow up" as Ava finally gets a chance to be a real kid.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Mary Jo and Ava have reversed their roles as mother and daughter. Which scenes illustrate this role reversal?
Do you think today's kids are more aware of issues like sexuality and violence thanks to the influence of the Internet and other media sources?
- In theaters: January 24, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: November 24, 2000
- Cast: Janet McTeer, Jay O. Sanders, Kimberly J. Brown
- Studio: New Line
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language, sensuality and a scene of domestic discord
- Last updated: March 31, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Anywhere but Here
Solid story of independence for teens.
'90s coming-of-age tale has sex, drinking, cursing.
Mother-daughter switch is fun comedic chaos.
Heartfelt, sassy dramedy about family and grief rings true.
For kids who love moms and movies
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