Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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The Tribes of Palos Verdes


Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1star:
Final Score: :3.5stars:


Books being turned into films is nothing new, and while it may seem like a massive resurgence of the habit has become more and more popular the last 15-20 years, it really hasn’t. Much of the film library in existence of “based” off of books for the most part, and it’s nothing that new. I remember when I was in high school and the 1997 (sorry, dating myself a bit there) book by Joy Nicholson hit store shelves. Every soccer mom in existence had the book, and after it was raved about by Oprah, every MOM in existence had to have the book. I was working at a used bookstore at the time and we couldn’t keep the book on the shelf. Every time someone traded in a copy we had a wait list a mile long of people we would call to let them know it was finally in. Luckily I went off to college in the next year or so and I put the phenomenon out of my mind and was reminded of it until I saw that Shout Factory was releasing a movie with the same name! Yup, after a bit of research I was confirmed right in my suspicions. 19 years after the novel had come out, there was going to be a movie about. Being older and more curious I decided it was high time I found out what all the hype was about and requested to review the film and grabbed a copy of the book out of my wife’s stash (I never knew it, but she had bought the book years ago and it had been sitting in our house for over a decade without my knowledge).

I have mixed feelings about The Tribes of Palos Verdes. The movie is just chock full of fantastic performances, the best being Jennifer Gardner pulling off a deeply dark and disturbing role that I’ve never seen her play before. Gardner has made a life habit out of playing optimistic and enthusiastic characters, but she stepped outside of her comfort zone and portrays a woman going through a LITERAL mental meltdown. The adorable Maika Monroe (best known for It Follows) is our narcissistic and troubled teenage protagonist, and Cody Fern gives us a stellar performance as Maika’s twin brother Jim. Then there’s the flip side of the coin. Melodrama, melodrama, melodrama. Now I’m not stranger to the world of melodramatic character study films, but I have to admit that I’m getting really really REALLY tired of the “rich people have problems too!” melodramas that dot the landscape. The plot is always the same. A rich family moves somewhere new, and they seem to have it all. Lots of money, stuff us normies don’t have, looks beyond compare, popularity, and everything we always wanted. The only thing is, they’re pretty much always full of xanax popping moms, kids on drugs, sex, cheating fathers, and every other cliched stereotype that reeks of the author/writer saying “Look! They’re messed up too!”. Yes, we get it, rich people don’t have perfect lives, and this bleakly pseudo sociological film is meant for us to go “oh wow! Look how deep and artsy this movie is”. (yes, I’m slightly jaded).
I will say this. The movie mimics the “mood over plot” sense of the book quite nicely. Instead of giving us an over arching plot to really delve into, the film is more of a character study thrown into a slice of life drama. There’s the standard young adult fodder, complete with dark and gloomy suburban milieu, troubled family life, and a misfit protagonist who finds solace in her messed up life through surfing. The Mason family has just moved to the idyllic world of Palos Verdes, California. A world where everything is perfect and shiny. Where every house has immaculate roof tiles, the beach is right outside, and people mingle at the Friendly Hills country club (little joke here, nobody’s really friendly at Friendly Hills). Phil Mason (Justin Kirk) is an affluent cardiologist who has forced his family out of Michigan to the suburbs of L.A. so that he can be a doctor to the rich and famous Hollywood elite. His wife, Sandy (Jennifer Gardner), is barely holding it together, as they’re getting over a semi recent affair and really just trying to deal with this “happy” California lifestyle. Then there’s Medina (Maika Monroe) and her twin brother Jim (Cody Fern). Jim is the glue of the family (as Medina makes clear in the first 2 minutes of the film). He’s likable, handsome, and his mother dotes on him hand and foot. Jim just wants to be popular and liked (which is incredibly easy for the outgoing guy), while Medina is your typical mopey teenager who is forging her own path (aka, she really doesn’t like the rest of the world and just wants to get away from it).

Their world comes crashing down around them, though, when Phil is once again caught dallying around with another woman, and Sandy goes into a downward mental spiral that is both captivating and horrifying to watch, leaving Jim and Sandy having to deal with their unhappy home life in their own way. Jim starts the classic rich person’s method of taking up prescription medication and partying with his new friends, while Medina is left finding something she can do by herself. This particular salve turns out be surfing the waves and sharing her life with a young boy named Adrian (who happens to be the son of the floozy that her father is bedding).

As I said, much of the film follows a moody cliché that I have gotten REALLY tired with lately. Rich people doing rich people stuff, and the film pointing out to us that yes, these people have problems too. The film is bleak, depressing, and meanders around a good bit without a seeming point anywhere. The saving grace of the film is that it really is well acted. Maika and Jennifer are the standouts here, each emblazoning on the film with their own sense of power and enthusiasm. Maika has always had a great “moody” way of acting (watch It Follows if you want to see her at her peak), and Medina is a darkly relatable character who you just can’t help but sympathize with. The one to really watch here is Jennifer Gardner. Sandy Mason is a complete mental case, and Gardner does a FANTASTIC job at portraying a suburban house wife who is spiraling out of control into complete breakdown. She’s a bit out of it as the film starts, but each and every second she’s on screen you watch her slowly sink down into an inescapable mire that is just jaw dropping to watch. Especially considering how she’s known for her upbeat roles in the past.


Rated R for drug use, language throughout and some sexual content

Video: :4stars:
The IFC films movie is given a solid looking encode from Shout Factory, putting it on a BD-25 with a decent bitrate (not a big deal as the film is less than 2 hours long with only a smattering of sparse special features). The movie was shot digitally and transferred to a 2K master, but the stylistic choices keep it from being truly amazing. Palos Verdes is given a soft brown look, and the cinematography is dotted with unique lens focus issue that really are startling (if not rather neat, where an in focus shot goes out of focus, and then sharply back into focus in the span of 1-2 seconds). Up close facial features are excellent, and the overall clarity of the disc is pleasing. The soft look to the color grading and slightly faded black levels give it an earthy look that isn’t RAZOR sharp, but well within reason.

Audio: :4stars:
Yup, you guessed it. This is a modern day Shout Factory release, which means that we get the option of a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track to listen to, as well as a 2.0 DTS-HD MA track for night listening. Naturally the 5.1 track is the winner, and it’s another good sounding dramatic track. BEING a dramatic track, the mix is decidedly front heavy for a majority of the time, but the beach side California environment has enough activity to keep the surrounds full of slamming waves, or the rushing sound of the surf against the sandy beach. LFE is tight and punch during the seaside shots, and even compliments the movie a bit with the sound of slamming doors, or the rumbling of the score. Vocals are crisp and evenly placed in the center of the room, while being balanced with the ambient background noise (whether that be the slamming and banging of Sandy throwing things around, or the melancholy score that flows throughout the film).

Extras: :1star:
• Deleted Scenes

Final Score: :3.5stars:

Directing brothers Emmett and Brendan Malloy do a solid job with the project, but like the book, the film’s malaise and milieu are simply a bit too melodramatic and “1st world problems” for my taste. The inclusion of Jennifer Gardner as the mad momma, and Maika Monroe as Medina the highlights though, so I have a bit of a mixed bag reaction to the movie. On one hand the melodrama can be insufferable, but on the other hand, the acting is just REALLY good at times. As such I’d probably list it as a rental to see for yourself, as Shout Factory’s Blu-ray release is more than capable and the acting well worth checking out.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Jennifer Garner, Maika Monroe, Cody Fern
Directed by: Brendan and Emmett Malloy
Written by: Karen Croner
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 104 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 10th, 2018

Recommendation: Rental



AV Addict
Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. Based on your review, will check it out once available on amazon prime/netflix. :)
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