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The Tale (Laura Dern)


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A psychoanalyst's review of the new movie the Tale starring Laura Dern as an abuse victim. It's a good read.



Jennifer Fox’s new film The Tale, a harrowing, largely autobiographical account of sexual abuse and her first fictional feature, has unsurprisingly prompted nearly every critic to invoke #MeToo. True, its adult protagonist, “Jennifer Fox” (Laura Dern) is an abuse survivor and ultimately her abuser’s public accuser. But this tale isn’t so simple, as Jennifer doesn’t believe she’s “Too” anything; nor is she a “Me,”­ but rather an “Us.” She shares this story with the thirteen year old Jenny (Isabelle Nélisse) she was when events unfolded in the 1970s.

Thirty-some years later, Jennifer both does and doesn’t remember what happened when her 40ish track coach Bill initiated her first sexual “relationship,” which neither child nor adult will acknowledge as rape. Jennifer has pushed her story aside and left it literally confined to a shoebox, until her mother discovers it. That discovery is the catalyst for adult Jennifer’s reckoning with 13-year-old Jenny.

It is in the telling and unraveling of this joint narrative that Fox’s film, in a highly original and courageous way, shatters the black and white victim/perpetrator dichotomy to which we’ve grown too inured. Both young and older Jennifer refuse the identity of victim. Instead, they frame the experience as a beautiful, even empowering, love story, one that Jenny has the means to invite and, finally, to end—“I decided [to stop seeing you],” Jenny tells Bill, and Bill is seemingly devastated.

Jenny’s decision, which assumes legitimate (if limited) power, removes her from the abusive situation but does not disabuse her of her romantic fantasy. Nor does Jennifer ever revisit, let alone reconsider, her involvement with Bill. Her self-image depends, in fact, on constructing the story as a romance, on wilfully authoring her own tale—the Tale—in which she remains the prime agent, even the heroine. It is Fox’s commitment to Jenny’s unrelenting need to take ownership of her life—and to endow her story with meaning—that unsettles not only our #MeToo convictions but also our understanding of childhood sexual abuse.

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8 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

why leave out Handmaid's?

 it's just dumb

Are you referring to the new Handmaid's Tale TV show? The writer is criticizing women in MeToo not having personal agency for their actions and she's saying it's depicted in the movie. The victim is trying to reshape history to depict themselves as the heroine.

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