Director: Matthew Bright

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Tiptoes (2003) is a highly eccentric film about a family of "little people" with inherited dwarfism, & their one "normal" family member, Steven, played by Matthew McConaughey. He loves his family & attends little people events, but he also has a streak of embarassment & has never told his girlfriend Carol (Kate Beckinsale) about his family.

When she accidentally gets pregnant, he flies off the handle, to her confusion since she'd been led to believe he wanted a family & wouldn't be so alarmed that they started a bit earlier than intended. When her boyfriend's brother Rolfe shows up one day while Steven's at work, however, she realizes at once that there's an extremely high likelihood that she'll give birth to a dwarf.

Through the brother she gets to meet the family for the first time, & obtains a reference for a physician who is particularly well informed about the special health issues of little people. McConaughey is meanwhile attempting to come to terms with the rapidly changing situation. Not only has Carol quickly adapted to the possibility of raising a dwarf with special medical needs, but she is instantly fond of Steven's generous & wonderful family.

When it comes time to meet Carol's full-sized Jewish family, her mother & father, & especially her mother, seem horrified by their daughter's fiance's family. But their seeming prejudice boils down to a joke because their horror is only that the family of little people are Catholics. When her fiance agrees to a Jewish wedding, everyone is pleased as punch.

For all that this is quite delightful, the film falls flat on a couple different levels. First is the miscasting of Gary Oldman as Rolfe. Oldman is a fine actor, but he's not a little person, & it is highly distracting to observe the perpetual barrage of camera angle tricks to disguise the fact that Oldman is walking around on his knees while filmed from the waste up or his lower body hidden behind furniture nobody else has to stand behind, or sitting with his legs embedded inside a sofa & totally motionless fake legs "posed" in front of his torso, with one or two CGI scenes tossed in to show his full body.

The existence of actual little people throughout the story increases the obviousness that Oldman's a total fraud. Think of a film like The Good Earth (1937) wherein every Asian actor in Hollywood becomes support cast to the Caucasians who with unconvincing "me chinese" eye make-up get to be the leads. Ditto the old Jimmy Wong series with tall hulking Boris Karloff as the Chinese detective. Whatever possessed anyone to think Gary Oldman could pull this off?

The star who should've played this role is Peter Dinklage, who is not only the best little person actor the world has ever seen, he's simply one of the top actors in the world, period (as absolute proof, see The Station Agent). As such he does get a secondary lead as a French Marxist with a chip on his shoulder, Rolfe's best friend, with an extremely lovely girlfriend (Patricia Arquette) who is quite understandably deeply in love with the handsome little devil, though his bad temper makes the relationship rocky.

Additionally, using McConaughey & Beckinsale as the point of view characters has a parallel to films that assume American viewers won 't watch a film about samurai unless it stars Tom Cruise or Richard Chamberlain.

Steven has serious issues with his family's size. He never wanted to have a dwarf baby of his own, but he also never wanted to let Carol know if they had a kid it'd likely be a dwarf. When she's already preggers he posits the possibility that they'll adopt & always get along famously with his family but without having to live with any of the genetic consequences themselves. She does not want an abortion. Rather, she wants him to be a bit more hip about stuff & simply change his entire lifelong attitude.

After they marry & she has the kid, he emotionally abandons his wife & dwarf child, then leaves the home altogether to try on his own to get his head together. He never succeeds, & if he had succeeded, he waited too long. She is beginning to bond with Rolfe, who is a nicer fellow all around. This again would've been stronger stuff if the brother had been played by someone as sexy as Dinklage rather than by Gary Oldman walking on his knees. Plus Oldman imitates a dwarf in such a sickly state that one half expects throughout the story that he'll announce he needs a heart transplant or will die.

The miscasting sabotages the film. At times its "political correctness" is grating, especially since the casting was the only thing that should have been correct. Despite the gross miscalculation of Oldman's casting, however, I did enjoy this film. Its merits might not quite outweigh the errors, but I always want to give director Matthew Brite the benefit of all doubt because I've liked so much of his work (see for finer examples Freeway & Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby).

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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