Ever wonder why some actors choose certain roles? Usually the answer you come up with is something along the lines of “Because money, that’s why!”. What is the answer when the film is really low budget though? Obviously a big wage can’t be the reason. For the excellent Super there was the chance to work on an intelligent very well written film by cult director/writer James Gunn. So what if the screenplay is poor and the director isn’t particularly well known? Speaking of such films, here’s Tiptoes. Right, let’s see if I can get through this review without using the word “midget”.
Tiptoes story involves generically named young couple Steve (Matthew McConaughey) and Carol (Kate Beckinsale) who discover they are soon to be bringing a child into the world via pregnancy. You know, rather than storks. Steve has a secret though. One that involves his family. One that could mean a life of medical issues for his future child. You see, Steve’s entire family are midgets (shit.. what’s that, 72 words?). Steve also has a twin brother, who of course is a mid… dwarf played by Gary Oldman. Yup, Gary Oldman. Commissioner Gorden, Dracula, Sid Vicious and now Rolfe the unconvincing dwarf. I like how every few years he picks out a film role seemingly at random. Anyway, Steve is obviously worried about the high chance that his son could be born as a dwarf. Oddly this comes across as though he’s barely given it any thought over his entire life until this moment.
For a man that’s grown up with a family of dwarfs Steve is awfully ashamed of them. Or is he? He goes to conventions, has a good relationship with his family, there’s no hint that he has a habit of being ashamed. Other than the fact he hadn’t told his girlfriend. His relationship with Carol is odd too. See she says they’ve been together since May and plan to get married in Spring. Judging by how pregnant she is at the wedding it appears that they’ve been together for all of 5-7 months. 5-7 months into a relationship and they’re engaged, having a baby, he’s constantly disappearing and keeping secrets from her and she knows nothing of his family. Lady, you’re marrying a douche. Oh my God what a bi-polar A grade twat of a douche Steve is too. There’s just nothing likeable about him. He seems to flip-flop between how he feels about the situation they’re in over the course of a scene only to bring up the same argument again a few scenes later adding nothing to it. He invites his hot co-worker to a party where he is due to meet Carol who’s reeling from finding out his secret and his lack of compassion for her issues. This leads nowhere. The woman is at the party and runs off to meet some famous guy, who then shags a dwarf. Also, to add to reasons to dislike him, he is Matthew McConaughey.
It’s not like Carol is that much better but at least gradually we can pick up a little sympathy for her situation. It doesn’t help that we are introduced to her as though she is an ancillary character. We know she paints but that’s all we know about her before she randomly tells Steve that she is pregnant. We have no connection with her. The first 20 minutes or so are spent with Steve, his brother Rolfe and Rolfe’s friend Maurice (Peter Dinklage) so we’re led to presume they are the main cast. Except by the 25 minute mark we’re solidly following Kate with no feeling of connection to her. Hell the couple aren’t even the first characters we see. Rolfe and Maurice are. The first shot is them riding motorbikes down a road. No story, no context. Just them riding down a road. Sorry movie but you show me two dwarf bikers in your first shot and I demand you deliver dwarf Easy Rider.
Speaking of Peter Dinklage’s character Maurice, he adds nothing to the film. His character is a little interesting in that he’s a total ladies man who seems to refuse to accept his dwarfism as a hindrance, and so he shouldn’t, but he serves no purpose to the story. He picks up a girl called Lucy (Patricia Arquette) at the side of the road, literally, and they’re together through the course of the film just saying stuff and being there. Not offering advice to Carol. Not furthering any element of the main story. What is especially bad is that an actor as good as Peter Dinklage is wasted on such a pointless character when the lead dwarf character is played by the very not a dwarf Gary Oldman.
The effect used to make Gary look short is pretty shonky. He’s basically on his knees with his arms pulled back. There’s multiple scenes where the camera is moved for no reason other than to avoid his legs appearing in shot and the producer having to pay to erase them. There’s a number of scenes where they try to show his feet and this is handled in 1 of 4 unconvincing ways. A body double. Shoes on his knees with his shins digitally removed. Incredibly poor digital shoes in one early scene. My favourite method of all though is rubber cushion legs. There’s a number of shots of Rolfe sat on a sofa or an armchair with a pair of unmoving and hilariously bad looking fake legs. They literally look like someone stuffed a pair of tights with socks and put trousers and shoes on them. Gary Oldman is very clearly sat in a hole in the chair. Again, Peter Dinklage is playing second fiddle to a pair of fake legs.
Cinematography and direction is plain poor on many occasions. A book is dropped to the floor after being placed on a rocking chair in one shot. It happens at the back of a shot and feels, to me, like a metaphor for the film maker’s care for the job they’re doing. In another scene Rolfe heads through a door and it clearly hits Oldman’s feet as it closes. The story moves along with conflicts apparently resolved but then brought up again. To add to that there’s moments of hollow conflict that occur for just one scene, have no baring on the story and are there merely as a reason for character to argue or be worried. The Jewish wedding comes about as an issue Carol’s parents bring up over dinner with Steve’s family, the first time they are meeting them. It’s one of those scenes where they try to make you believe the parents are going to ask an insensitive question about Steve’s family. Why a Jewish wedding is the source of their concern I don’t know. Considering we have no idea what religion the characters are until this scene (Catholic apparently) it has no meaning. Couldn’t this have been brought up earlier, maybe after establishing that Steve is a Catholic and with a strong reason why the wedding should be Jewish he could have had additional conflict added to the situation for later in the film? Or why don’t they just not have it at all. It makes no sense.
I could honestly go on and on about the ineptitude of the story, it’s plotting and the character development but I shouldn’t. I’d feel too much like I was picking on a disabled person. Which would be wrong seeing as, I think, the film’s message is that we shouldn’t judge the disabled. Matthew Bright, director of.. hold on… checking imdb… Nothing of note, seems to show the sort of bland inability to command story and visuals that isn’t at all uncommon for the sort of movie this most resembles. Bad made for tv stories of adversity. It literally feels like the sort of bland, poorly thought out crap you get on daytime tv, Just with swearing and a midget porn star.
See Rolfe has an on again, off again girlfriend in the form of Sally played by porn star Bridget “The Midget” Powerz. They seem to get together and split up every other scene with no reason beyond the first time. Their relationship is an example of how all the relationships in this film are handled. With no semblance of reason or reality. For example, Steve’s Uncle is introduced at a little peoples convention a few minutes into the film to that midget woman from Total Recall. Two days later into the story and they appear to be living together. Oh and Bridget Powerz isn’t all that bad here. I must look into her other work… cough.
The film wraps up very quickly and ineffectively with a wedding, the birth of a child and other such dramas, coming in the course of about 20 minutes. It feels like they were an hour into shooting and suddenly realised their film was 90 minutes long and not 2 hours. I would say everything falls apart in the final act but calling it a final act would be an insult to screenwriting and the film fell apart around 20 seconds in. Tiptoes is a bland mess of a film that even Gary Oldman trying his best can’t rescue. He must have worn the hell out of his knees for this and it was all for nothing. Peter Dinklage is also his usual exceptional self but, like Oldman, is horribly wasted. It is a bland, poorly conceived, borderline offensive film that has caused me much bafflement as to how it ever got financed with the script it had. I’m not saying the subject couldn’t work, it could easily, but the story is told so ineptly, the direction so poor and the characters so pathetically defined that any weight the subject could have had was squandered the moment the cameras started rolling.