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Tenderness (DVD Review)

8 Apr, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 4/13/10
DVD $28.98
Rated ‘R’ for sexual situations and mild violence.
Stars Russell Crowe, Jon Foster, Sophie Traub, Laura Dern.

With a sleazeball boss at a suburban Buffalo convenience store who masturbates in front of her, and mom’s latest boyfriend stealing peeks (and more) of her while she showers, it’s not much of stretch that 15-year-old Lori (skillfully played by Canadian newcomer Sophie Traub) seeks fantasy love and absolution from 18-year-old killer Eric (Jon Foster).

For detective Cristofuoro (Russell Crowe, in a surprisingly limited role), being assigned to track the newly paroled Eric represents the final hurdle to a pension and caring for his comatose wife (no explanation is ever given why she is so).

Now living with his aunt (Laura Dern) after being released from juvenile detention for killing his mother and father (with a bow and arrow), Eric is clearly damaged goods, despite a boyish charm and looks. Cristofuoro knows this and lures the boy to Albany for a tryst at an amusement park with an undercover female decoy.

Of course Lori has other ideas and joins Eric on the road trip (featuring superb cinematography of the New York countryside) after hiding in the back seat.

Tenderness, based on a Robert Cormier novel, works on many levels due to the finely nuanced performance by Traub, whose double-edged character the viewer impulsively wants to protect from Eric, but also realizes is so deeply scarred she may be looking for a one-way trip.

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