The Tale

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The Tale
The Tale.png
Film release poster
Directed by Jennifer Fox
Produced by
Screenplay by Jennifer Fox
Starring
Music by Ariel Marx
Cinematography
Edited by
  • Alex Hall
  • Gary Levy
  • Anne Fabini
Production
company
Distributed by HBO Films
Release date
  • January 20, 2018 (2018-01-20) (Sundance)
  • May 26, 2018 (2018-05-26) (United States)
Running time
114 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Tale is a 2018 American drama film written and directed by Jennifer Fox and starring Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Isabelle Nélisse, Common, Frances Conroy, and John Heard. It tells the story about Fox's own childhood sexual abuse and how it affects her later relationships. It premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival[1][2] and aired on HBO on May 26, 2018.[3]

Plot[edit]

Jennifer Fox is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and professor in her 40s when her mother, Nettie, calls her in alarm after discovering an essay she wrote when she was 13. The essay is about a "relationship" Jennifer had when she was 13 which she dismisses as upsetting her mother because her boyfriend was "older".

After re-reading the essay Jennifer begins to do research on that period in her life. She imagines herself as being older and sophisticated but is surprised at how small and childlike she appears in photos from that time. Jennifer's relationship began one summer when she went to an intensive horse training camp with three other girls. She lived with the beautiful and enigmatic Mrs. G, who also had Jenny and the girls run with professional coach Bill Allens, who was in his 40s. After the summer ends Mrs. G and Bill reveal to Jenny they are lovers.

After the camp, Jenny keeps her horse with Mrs. G and continues to see her and Bill on the weekends. Eventually it transitions into Jenny spending time with Bill alone. He begins sexually grooming her, eventually raping her repeatedly, telling her that they are “making love”.

When Jennifer's partner finds letters written to her by Bill, he says that she was raped, but she refuses to see it that way, proclaiming that she is not a victim. However she slowly begins to question whether her recollections are accurate and eventually realizes despite her protests she had been exhibiting symptoms of being sexually abused for years.

As Jennifer continues to investigate that summer, she realizes that Bill and Mrs. G were probably grooming other girls. She remembers a college student named Iris Rose who worked for Mrs. G. Jennifer tracks Iris Rose down who tells her that she, Mrs. G and Bill had threesomes and that Mrs. G was actively involved in finding women for Bill. This prompts Jennifer to remember that she was supposed to participate in group sex with Mrs. G, Bill and Iris one weekend. However Jenny, who threw up each time she was raped by Bill, had an anxiety attack and threw up the day before she was due to go away for the weekend, causing her mother to keep her at home. Realizing she no longer wanted to be in a relationship with Bill, Jenny called him and broke up with him, even as he pleaded with her to stay. She also informed Mrs. G she would no longer be keeping her horse with her.

Adult Jennifer goes to an awards ceremony where Bill is being honoured and confronts him in front of his wife and the other attendees. Bill denies everything and leaves. Jennifer has a panic attack and goes to the bathroom, and imagines sitting with her 13-year-old self, who proclaims that she is not a victim, but a hero.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

On May 5, 2015, it was reported that Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Debicki, and Sebastian Koch would star in The Tale, written and directed by Jennifer Fox. It was set to begin principal photography that summer.[4] On May 14, 2016, it was reported that the film was being shopped to foreign buyers at the Cannes Film Festival, and Common, Jason Ritter, Frances Conroy, and John Heard were announced as also being part of the cast.[5]

Release[edit]

In January 2018, HBO Films acquired distribution rights to the film.[6] It premiered on HBO on May 26, 2018.[3]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 98% based on 62 reviews, with an average rating of 9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Tale handles its extraordinarily challenging subject matter with sensitivity, grace, and the power of some standout performances led by a remarkable Laura Dern."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 90 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[8]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2018 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Television Movie The Tale Nominated [9]
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Laura Dern Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ Debruge, Peter (November 29, 2017). "Sundance Film Festival Unveils Full 2018 Features Lineup". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  2. ^ "The Tale". Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Nolfi, Joey (April 9, 2018). "Laura Dern sexual abuse drama The Tale gets HBO premiere date". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  4. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (May 5, 2015). "Mongrel Boards Laura Dern-Starrer 'The Tale'; Camera d'Or Jury Set – Cannes Briefs". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  5. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (May 14, 2016). "Cannes: Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Common Head Up Cast for Jennifer Fox's 'The Tale' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Galuppo, Mia; Lee, Ashley (January 26, 2018). "Sundance: Laura Dern Drama 'The Tale' Nabbed by HBO Films". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  7. ^ "The Tale (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  8. ^ "The Tale Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  9. ^ "Emmys.com list of 2018 Nominees & Winners". Retrieved July 14, 2018.

External links[edit]