Three teen pals and a troublemaking interloper share some insipid senior-year adventures in "Tanner Hall." Refigured from a never-made TV pilot, this shallow boarding school-set coming-of-ager traverses familiar territory without offering anything fresh. The feature debut of writer-helmers Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg echoes numerous works including "Heathers," "Election" and "Juno," yet never establishes its own, singular tone.
Veering from sitcom slapstick to wannabe black comedy to soap opera, the colorfully designed pic could fulfill its original destiny by landing on cable.
As a new academic year starts, pretty central protag Fernanda (Rooney Mara) is not pleased to find bad-apple childhood acquaintance Victoria (Georgia King, a brash comicbook villainess) joining her graduating class at elite private school Tanner Hall. However, her best friends, seductive Kate (curvaceous Brie Larson) and sensitive Lucasta (Amy Ferguson, nicely understated) seem oblivious to the newcomer's maliciously manipulative ways.
While Victoria schemes to become queen bee of Fern's clique, a plethora of subplots drag the pic in different directions. Kate shamelessly flirts with their English teacher (Chris Kattan), whose dysfunctional marriage to the bossy dorm mistress (Amy Sedaris) becomes a broadly played running joke; Lucasta gradually becomes aware of her sexual preferences; and Fern starts an affair with Gio (Tom Everett Scott), an older man whose on-again, off-again girlfriend (Tara Subkoff) is about to give birth.
Although the derivative script is all over the place, the bright production package is strong, with sharp HD lensing by Brian Rigney Hubbard showing the New England fall foliage (pic was filmed in Providence, R.I.) to prime advantage.
Respectively a countess and a princess, filmmakers Gregorini (daughter of actress Barbara Bach and stepdaughter of Ringo Starr) and von Furstenberg (daughter of clothing designer Diana von Furstenberg and stepdaughter of Barry Diller) were both boarding-school girls themselves.