The coming of age story in Tanner Hall introduces the social dynamics that can be found in society’s elite school systems. Of course film separates reality by the shear nature of the medium.
Meet Fernanda (played by Rooney Mara), Victoria (played by Georgia King), Lucasta (played by Amy Ferguson), and Kate (played by Brie Larson), the angst-ridden teens of the fictitious institutional-looking New England boarding school “Tanner Hall” (Miss Porter’s School anyone?). These girls are pretty, troubled, melancholic and sexualized just like the the Lisbon girls of “The Virgin Suicides.” Only these girls are far more manipulative and rebellious. Victoria is the “depressed mean girl.” She lies and backstabs to dis-empower the leader of the group — Fernanda (aka Fern). Fernanda is “the good girl gone bad” as she has an affair with a married man (played by Tom Everett Scott). Lucasta is “the loyal friend” who struggles to admit to herself and her friends that she is a lesbian. Kate is “the flirt” who likes to toy with the unhappily married teacher (played by Chris Kattan). It’s not just for her amusement. Her friends clearly enjoy watching Kate torture the teacher and so do we, the audience. It’s uncomfortably funny in its authenticity. Writer/directors Francesa Gregorini and Tatiana Von Furstenberg (best friends since teens who are boarding school graduates) nail the emotional truth of this age group – the confusion, the conflict and most importantly, the angst.
The film feels autobiographical and while the writer/directors said that the characters are composites, one can’t help but wonder who they identify with most.