Movie Review: ‘Tankhouse’

Greetings again from the darkness. A couple of months ago I reviewed Tim Federle’s new movie, BETTER NATE THAN EVER, and described it as a real treat for young theater students. Now, just a few weeks later, comes the first feature film from writer-director Noam Tomaschoff and co-writer Chelsea Frei … one for the grown-ups still trying to make a go of it on the live theater scene. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes motivational, and sometimes painful to watch. While the film really boils down to finding one’s place in life and staying true to your own dreams, it takes quite an unusual path with oddball characters.

Sandrene St Jean (Tara Holt) and Tucker Charlemagne (Stephen Friedrich) lead a group of avant-garde performers in a display of rooftop immersive art. Things go swimmingly right up until a tragedy that results in the couple being booted from the company by their mentor, Burford Slezinger (Christopher Lloyd), and blacklisted from the NYC theater scene. Making things seem more hopeless for Sandrene and Tucker, a dinner with her parents (Andy Buckley from “The Office” and Joey Lauren Adams and her distinctive voice) leaves their free-wheeling artistic lifestyle lacking further funding.

The pretentious Sandrene and the brash Tucker admit they can’t possibly get “real jobs”, so they head to her hometown of Fargo, where a contest will decide which performance group will win the rights to takeover the historic downtown theater. The competition boils down to an established group led by Morten (Richard Kind), Sandrene’s former high school drama teacher, or the quickly assembled troupe of oddball locals she and Tucker cobble together from the local pub. Recruits are drawn in by Tucker’s proclamation of a “theatrical revolution” … one of his many articulate statements that carry no significant heft.

Most of the story takes place in Fargo, with the rivalry between the two theater groups driving things forward. There is a terrific parody of the WEST SIDE STORY gang face-off that involves high-speed dueling “Modern Major General Song” (from Pirates of the Penzance) versions – accompanied by finger-snapping! What we witness is how one person’s passion and commitment can both unite and divide, and how individual dreams should be pursued when the opportunity presents. Richard Kind’s Morten is a fine example of how bitterness can leech in when someone doesn’t achieve their goals and struggles, and still find happiness with the hand dealt. All of these life lessons are wrapped in a comedy with oddball characters that will likely appeal most to those who have chosen the theater life. In fact, the story is semi-autobiographical for writers Tomaschoff and Frei. While we would have liked more development for the supporting characters, this ‘personal’ aspect for the writers explains a great deal. Whether you view this as a parody or cautionary tale, it does remind us that each person must seek their lot in life.

Available May 13, 2022 on VOD

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