Tuck Everlasting is an absolutely gorgeous movie, exquisitely detailed in costumes and set decoration, breathtakingly photographed, romantically scored, and filled with unforgettable performances by all the actors. Based on the popular children’s book by Natalie Babbitt, Tuck investigates a subject that is often taboo among Americans-the inevitability of death. Director Jay Russell (My Dog Skip) creates an engrossing tale devoid of eye-thrashing special effects and coming-of-age cliches. Tuck could have been a perfect movie, except for one irredeemable flaw-an ambiguous, abrupt ending that leaves the audience with a disappointing “huh?” Since you ‘ve been warned about it, it won’t hit you as hard–go ahead and enjoy the preceding 100 minutes of the movie. Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel, TV’s Gilmore Girls) is a high-spirited teenager, yearning to bust out of her corset and escape her claustrophobic Victorian upbringing and her society conscious mother (Amy Irving, Traffic). One night a mysterious elderly stranger, dressed in a yellow suit, talks to her through the fence of her mansion. It’s Ben Kingsley (Ghandi), relentlessly searching for a family that no one seems to have heard of. With the air of someone who will pursue his quarry to hell, he walks away into the small-town night, whistling an eerie tune. The next day, sick of croquet and precisely ticking clocks, Winnie runs away from home and escapes into the primeval forest. With her high-button shoes and frilly petticoats, Winnie is no match for the forest and is soon lost. She runs into a handsome youth, Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson, Insomnia) drinking from a spring that gurgles from the trunk of an enormous tree. Before Jesse can shoo Winnie home, Jesse’s older brother, Miles (Scott Bairstow, New Best Friend), captures Winnie and carries her off on his horse. Winnie finds herself at a sprawling old cabin in the deepest part of the woods. It’s a home filled with mementoes, seemingly from many generations, displayed without worry of how often a feather duster finds them. The boys’ father, Angus (William Hurt, Body Heat) is ridden with fear of what unknown grief the girl will certainly bring upon his family. Mae Tuck (Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom) is overjoyed to have a young woman’s presence and does everything she can to soothe Winnie. In scenes achingly lush with young sensuality, Winnie and Jesse fall in love. He reveals the family secret to her and begs her to drink the water and join him in his immortality. Angus, however, knows that death is a good thing, for it is part of the wheel of life. “Don’t fear death,” Angus tells Winnie “Fear the unlived life.” Where will Winnie’s courage send her? To immortality with Jesse, or back to her old life? Though we see her make the difficult decision, the movie ends without revealing the results of that decision. By not showing the proof of what happens when you truly live life, Tuck failed to deliver that most necessary element of a great movie, a satisfying ending.
– reviewed by Marci Miller