Thursday, April 18, 2024
HomeMoviesEvery Tamara Jenkins Film, Ranked

Every Tamara Jenkins Film, Ranked

The modern film industry has not made it easy for independent writers/directors to find success if they want to retain their artistic integrity. It’s very often that the creator of a highly popular indie film will be selected by a major studio to helm one of their blockbuster properties; following Cop Car, Jon Watts was hired to direct Spider-Man: Homecoming, and shortly after the smaller film Safety Not Guaranteed, Colin Trevorrow landed the gig of directing Jurassic World. The rare filmmakers that choose to only pursue their own material should be admired, and Tamara Jenkins has stood out as one of the most promising storytellers that pursues almost entirely original work.

Similar to filmmakers like Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig, Kelly Reichardt, or Kenneth Lonergan, Jenkins often examines highly personal stories about the realities of life and maturation that are unafraid to show an uncomfortable level of detail. Jenkins has stated that “comedy and tragedy are never completely bare of the other,” and that has remained true within all of her work thus far. Although she’s only directed three films thus far, Jenkins was honored with the prestigious IndieWoman and First Features Honoree for 19th Annual Bend Film Festival (via Bend Film). Hopefully, she will have another exciting film in the near future. Here is every Tamara Jenkins film, ranked.

3 The Savages

Fox Searchlight Pictures 

Jenkins has such a short filmography that her output has been nothing short of excellent so far; to say that The Savages is her “worst” film isn’t an insult, but rather a reflection of how strong her track record is. In fact, The Savages is perhaps the most commercially successful film of her career thus far, as she earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and a Best Screenplay win at the Independent Spirit Awards. Not only is The Savages a work of brilliant writing that features memorable exchanges of dialogue, but it’s also an incredible showcase for its two leading actors; Philip Seymour Hoffman turns in a delightfully offbeat performance, and Laura Linney proves once again why she is one of the best actresses of her generation.

Related: Best Philip Seymour Hoffman Movies, Ranked

The Savages focuses on the siblings Jon (Hoffman) and Wendy (Linney), who have drifted apart from each other as they have grown up. Both Jon and Wendy are driven to be writers and storytellers, but have trouble finding professional fulfillment; considering the personal nature of many of Jenkins’ stories, it feels as if this is somewhat inspired by her own life. Jon is a literature professor working on a novel, and Wendy has been unsuccessful in pursuing her dreams of being a playwright. While they haven’t been in close quarters with each other in quite some time, Jon and Wendy are forced to reconcile their differences when they are called upon to take care of their father Lenny (Philip Bosco), who is dealing with dementia.

It’s a gripping, emotional story that will surely hit close to home for anyone who has ever cared for a parent, or any siblings who are trying to make up for lost time. While such a taught and personal narrative might catch some viewers off guard, Jenkins’ insertions of realistic humor within the banter between Jon and Wendy makes it a much more enjoyable experience than it would have been if everything was played completely straight.

2 The Slums of Beverly Hills

Lyonne raises her hands up in a green yellow and white polo shirt in The Slums of Beverly Hills
Searchlight Pictures

Not every filmmaker is best known for their debut feature, and it’s often that a first film serves as a representation of their style, but not necessarily a masterpiece in its own right. Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson certainly made a name for themselves with Hard Eight and Bottle Rocket, respectively, but it’s unlikely that their fan bases would rank either one of their debuts as their best work. This is why Jenkins’ first film The Slums of Beverly Hills was such an impressive achievement for a first-time director. Jenkins showed that she was keen to work alongside emerging talent, as The Slums of Beverly Hills provided a breakout role for Natasha Lyonne prior to her string of success with Poker Face and Russian Doll.

Related: Here Are Some of the Best Women Directors Working Today

The Slums of Beverly Hills is another highly introspective film about an untraditional familial relationship. Lyonne stars as Vivian Abromowitz, a teenage girl whose family lives a nomadic lifestyle traveling across various areas of California. While her father Murray (Alan Arkin) claims that he has everything under control, it’s evident that the entire family is just making things up as they go along. The wild, untraditional nature of Jenkins’ filmmaking is perfect for this unusual set of protagonists; they simply seem to go where life takes them, and it’s rarely a story that conforms to traditional narrative structures.

Jenkins has always been highly attuned to examining sexuality in a respectfully authentic way, and Vivian’s anxieties about her adolescent growth feel particularly relatable. With no maternal figure to offer her guidance, Vivian must make due with the awkward advice of her father, which leads to more than a few hilarious scenarios.

1 Private Life

Private Life

While Netflix has often had an adverse impact on the independent film industry, it has nonetheless done a great job at spotlighting filmmakers who would have hard time finding successful box office returns in a fractured indie market. While it’s sad that a majority of viewers weren’t able to see Jenkins’ most recent film Private Life on the big screen, it does nothing to impact the quality of what may be her masterpiece.

Another bristling offbeat story about a difficult period of development, Private Life focuses on the married couple Richard (played by Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), who desperately try through artificial insemination, adoption programs, and In vitro fertilization to conceive a child. Richard and Rachel are both writers, and thus there is a great scholarly feel to the language that Jenkins uses. She unpacks the challenging process of trying to find fulfillment in both personal and professional outlets, and how each can be disappointing once people reach a certain age.

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments