`Tiptoes' is a rare social commentary and comedy which takes on what may be one of the very few personal problems not yet explored in a film. As interracial and interfaith relations have been explored up the wazoo, the very premise of this movie raises a little grim. The basic plot is driven by difficulties between a normal sized couple where the man has dwarfism in his genes and is afraid to admit it to their partner until it may be too late. That is, until the woman has become pregnant. The title, then, is a double entendre on dwarfs standing on tiptoe to come closer to normal height and the manner in which normal sized people tiptoe around the subject of dwarfism, especially in conversations with `little people'.
After `Lord of the Rings' where six normal sized actors are represented as sub 4 foot tall hobbits and one dwarf in the company of normally tall characters, it was almost expected that this technique would be used in other movies, so that `little people' can be represented my major name actors. In this case, it should be almost no surprise whatsoever that the top billing given to the actor in the dwarf role goes to Gary Oldman who has made a speciality of really oddball roles, mostly as villains, and mostly with heavy makeup and costuming. This is not the kind of movie I normally look forward to seeing, but the prospect of seeing another Oldman performance decided the issue. He is certainly among my favorite hard case actors, along with Mickey Rourke, Steve Buscemi, and Harvey Keitel. In this movie, aside from his small stature, Oldman plays the role straight up. In fact, the whole movie makes no cheap jokes whatsoever over the premise and over dwarfs. The closest the movie comes to an easy laugh is when the woman's (Beckinsale) normal sized parents meet the man's (McConaughey) dwarf parents and brother (Oldman) for the first time, and the woman's mother strains to bring up a delicate subject.
This movie probably casts more dwarf actors than any since either `The Wizard of Oz' or the more recent `Legend'. And, unlike either of those two fantasy movies, this movie deals with all the mostly good and sometimes loutish side of dwarf characters. I sincerely do not understand why the dwarf actor, Peter Dinklage, playing the most important dwarf role next to Oldman does not get a credit tacked onto the end of the names of the four normal sized actors. He appears on the screen longer than Patricia Arquette, with whom he maintains a plainly sexual relation through most of the movie. The relation between Arquette and Dinklage plays as a kind of counterpoint to the relation between Beckinsale and McConaughey, almost like the comic relief provided by the amateur troupe of actors in `A MidSummer's Night Dream' play to the much more serious goings on between the young human lovers and the spirits of the forest.
Aside from Oldman's transformation into a dwarf, the movie makes almost no effort to disguise incongruous facts about the actors and their roles. The engaged couple have a Jewish wedding, while both actors are about as Irish Catholic as you can possibly imagine. Also, while Oldman and McConaughey are plotted as literally biological twins, Oldman is obviously several years older than McConaughey.
While this is not a thriller, and while you sometimes wonder whether the movie is really going anywhere, it does arrive at a surprising conclusion which is consistent with it's primary theme, where it is the man with the dwarf genes who has a problem with the dwarf child, while the normal mother accepts the child and deals with the medical problems which accompany a child growing up with dwarfism.
Movies with a social conscience tend to entertain me less than a good action, suspense, horror, or sci-fi flick, but I can see and appreciate the skill of the writer and actors in this movie, and I can enjoy another addition to the collection of unusual Gary Oldman performances. I relish the thought of Oldman's getting together to make a movie with Quentin Tarantino. Yum.
This movie is well crafted and entertaining, but not quite a classic.