A sweet and precocious New York prep school student hot for his stepmom wins the hearts (and occasionally the bodies) of older women during a vacation break with his wealthy Upper West Side family.
That 15-year-old preppie Oscar (Aaron Stanford) has a penchant for older women is not the only thing that sets him apart from his peers. He's fluent in French and steeped in French literature, polite, urbane, smart, charming and cute--everything a woman, older or younger, could wish for. When Oscar goes home for Thanksgiving break with his Upper West Side family, the affair becomes one of a completely unexpected sort. The sweet and precious teen really has the hots for his beautiful, cultured stepmother, Eve (Sigourney Weaver), and plans to reveal his devotion before the holiday is over. These plans are quickly sidelined when Eve's horny chiropractor friend, Diane (Bebe Neuwirth), slyly lures Oscar from massage table to bed. The morning after Oscar is appropriately guilt-ridden, but he finds little refuge in the bosom of his family--although his dalliance with Diane was only a trifle, he's terrified that Eve will find out and swears Diane to secrecy. But secrets come out, as they tend to do, and things come to a head when Oscar joins Eve, his dad Stanley (John Ritter) and Diane--who's getting tipsier by the moment--at dinner the next night.
Newcomer Stanford (23 when he made this film) is remarkably convincing in his role as the 15-year-old Oscar. Whether it's due to his performance or the fine script, his character emerges less an insufferable snob than a decent good guy with taste and sensitivity and the good breeding behind it. Weaver is elegantly restrained as the unlikely object of his teen lust. The comically gifted Neuwirth sparkles, this time as the sexually adventurous chiropractor. Veteran Ritter is perfection in what could have been a throwaway role-- that of bland professsor dad Stanley. The Sopranos star Robert Iler has a few brief but appealing moments as Oscar's far more conventional prep school pal and confidant Charlie.
Director Gary Winick, who took the Director's Award at Sundance for this effort, has been trying for years to prove that features shot digitally can work. With Tadpole he finally makes a good argument, but not because the film looks especially great. Rather, he oversees beautifully cast characters in a bright story that convincingly captures a fresh and contemporary upper-class New York milieu and takes an unexpected look at the coming-of-age process.
Tadpole wants to be the kind of charming, quirky French romp that often wins stateside audiences. The problem is that this lightweight comedy isn't French (although the young hero speaks some French) and is more precious and smug that it is charming or quirky. However, the film does provide wish fulfillment for upwardly mobile, mature young males and romantically inclined women of a certain age à la The Graduate.