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  Tiptoes Knees-y Life
Year: 2003
Director: Matthew Bright
Stars: Gary Oldman, Kate Beckinsale, Matthew McConaughey, Patricia Arquette, Peter Dinklage, Debbie Lee Carrington, Michael J. Anderson, Ed Gale, David Alan Grier, Kacie Borrowman, Dana Sessen, Marcia de Rousse, Bridget Powers, Cherub Freed, Chad Everett
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Carol (Kate Beckinsale) is an artist who thinks she has a happy relationship with her boyfriend Steven (Matthew McConaughey), a firefighter trainer, but is curious as to why he's never invited her to meet his family. Steven's twin brother is Rolfe (Gary Oldman), a writer who is currently driving around California with his French friend Maurice (Peter Dinklage) on their bikes and today Maurice stops to pick up a hithchhiker, Lucy (Patricia Arquette). The brothers are independently headed for a convention of "Little People" for the reason that Rolfe is a dwarf, as the whole of Steven's family are except for him. So he's not happy when, in bed that night, Carol announces that she's pregnant and he knows he will have to break the news to her that the baby might be a dwarf as well.

With the name Matthew Bright in the director's credit, you might be expecting something outrageous from Tiptoes considering his track record of over the top films. However, the action here is mostly low key in an attempt to be sensitive about the subject matter, a technique that only serves to patronise the audience. Obviously designed as a "little people have feelings too" example of a special case tale, the filmmakers, including scriptwriter Bill Weiner, appear to be oblivious that most sensible viewers, which will presumably be the greater percentage of those watching, will know already that little people are, their height aside, no different from those of normal size.

This isn't The Wizard of Oz, after all, although it has a comparable number of small persons milling around, but here the physical condition and its implications take centre stage. I suppose it's no different from an issue of the week TV movie except for the casting of the main dwarf role. Imagine if this was a film about racial prejudice and Oldman had blacked up to play the brother? It would be ridiculous, and so it is here that the actor has to shuffle about on his knees to play Rolfe - you can't help but notice we never see him with his feet in shot, apart from a scene where he sits on a couch and has false short legs sticking out of his torso.

For shots where Oldman has to be seen walking away, a real little person is employed, and Oldman has been given a large shoulder and a walking stick to explain his awkward way of moving. But we're painfully aware that he is simply on his knees or crouching throughout - honestly, it would be unintentionally funny if it wasn't so misguided. Meanwhile, genuine, talented dwarf actors like Michael J. Anderson and Debbie Lee Carrington show up the trickery, and with Dinklage in the cast in the bizarre character of a hard-drinking, Marxist, anti-feminist Frenchman you wonder why he wasn't asked to take the lead role instead of what is presumably supposed to be the comic relief. The plot tension comes from Carol wanting to have the baby whether it is a dwarf or not and Steven wanting to adopt a normal sized child instead, but with all the well-meaning education of the problems of dwarfism included perhaps a documentary would have been a better gambit. Very odd, and not in a good way - plus the story suddenly stops mid-plot development. Music by Curt Sobel.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Matthew Bright  (1952 - )

American writer and director of trashy projects. He scripted films for Richard Elfman: cult favourite Forbidden Zone, Shrunken Heads and Revenant; there was also Guncrazy and, bizarrely, TV movie After Diff'rent Strokes: When the Laughter Stopped. As a director, he gained a following with Freeway, Confessions of a Trickbaby, true-life crime movie Ted Bundy and the ill-judged Tiptoes, which was taken out of his hands by the producers.

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