May 13th, 2022
STARRING: STEPHEN FRIEDRICH, TARA HOLT, CHRISTOPHER LLOYD, RICHARD KIND
DIRECTED BY: NOAM TOMASCHOFF
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Tankhouse is a collection of hits and misses. The hits are that Noam Tomsachoff’s film has Richard Kind in a role where he can steal the spotlight every moment he’s in frame. The misses exist in the jokes not landing and actors overdoing their performances. I liked the spirit of this independent film, about Sandrene (Tara Holt) and Tucker (Stephen Friedrich), a couple that is excommunicated from New York City theater company and look to begin again in Fargo, North Dakota. What it turns into is a battle between two theater groups, both with aspirations to own the Fargo theater, but along the way relationships will be challenged and the pursuit of acting dreams could be their downfall. The effort for a witty satire about the thespian experience fell short for me, with a series of scenarios that failed to consistently make me laugh, and a collective cast that never has the right chemistry. That’s show business, I guess.
One of the major parts of Tankhouse that didn’t work for me was the narrative flow. There’s not enough consistency in the writing from Tomaschoff and co-writer Chelsea Frie. It begins with Sandrene and Tucker performing at their prestigious theater with legendary teacher Buford (played by Christopher Lloyd in a role that offers him little to do). Tucker has developed a practice called “spontaneous theater”, where performances occur and start any place and time. During their first original performance it leads to the spontaneity startling a fellow actor’s grandmother, leaving her dead from a heart attack. That’s where the couple is eventually kicked out of their community and a suggestion by Sandrene’s mother (played by Joey Lauren Adams in a useless role) to compete for the Fargo theater leads to their exodus.
As far as independent comedies go, it’s a hard thing to accomplish, especially with me as the viewer because I don’t find anything funny these days. Tankhouse fails to conjure up anything more than a chuckle. The performances from the collected cast- made up of the actors at the Tankhouse Theater- have moments where the comradery of the group is fun, running acting exercises, and showing a thespian spirit. The leader of the rival group is Richard Kind’s Morton, who has an arrogance that is both bombastic and hilarious. On the other side, it doesn’t help that the lead character of Tucker is constantly grating, unable to adapt to those around him, and dragging any fun down with his dour personality.
Part of what works in Tankhouse is when it turns into a bit of Just Friends, with Sandrene reconnecting with old boyfriend Hank (Alex Esola), while Tucker desperately tries to bring the group together. The best part, and clear highlight of Tankhouse, is a Pirates of Penzance battle, with Richard Kind and Stephen Friedrich going back and forth with sharp deliveries of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” like a rap battle. If only Tankhouse could have harnessed that energy I think there could have been more to win me over.
The final problem lies in that I caught myself not laughing enough, not charmed, and wishing for a more memorable impact. The surrounding characters make for interesting stereotypes, boxes checked off in the kinds of people that makeup a theater group, but all of that blends together. There’s a fighting spirit from Tomaschoff, a potential for better comedies down the line, but Tankhouse is just not cutting it. Still love Richard Kind and Christopher Lloyd. There’s just not enough of them to fill up the tank.
TANKHOUSE IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND MAY 13TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady