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Cult Movie Essentials: Tiptoes (2003)

A film of the “Can you believe this exists?” variety Tiptoes is a 2003 film starring Matthew McConaughey, Kate Beckinsale, and Gary Oldman. The film features McConaughey as a tragically fully clothed firefighting instructor who has been keeping a secret from fiancée Kate Beckinsale: he happens to be the only average-sized person in a family of dwarfs. (Somehow, this never came up. Maybe it didn’t seem important.) But when Beckinsale, finds herself pregnant it forces McConaughey to expose his darkest secret. They are then forced to come to terms with the fact that the foetus she carries may be born a dwarf. This terrifies McConaughey who does not want his child to suffer the same way his twin brother (played by Gary Oldman) did as a child. As Beckinsale decides to carry the child, she and McConaughey grow further apart, and she begins to rely on Gary Oldman to teach her about life as a dwarf.

Now let’s skip past the obvious question of: ‘How could Oldman and McConaughey be twins, when Oldman is clearly a decade older?’ And go right for the question of ’For the love of God, why on earth is Oldman playing a dwarf?’

Tiptoes obviously couldn’t cast an actual dwarf or midget in a lead role when there were plenty of more famous ‘normal-sized’ actors willing to endure incredible discomfort just to steal a job from a struggling minority actor. So Tiptoes nobly and not at all hypocritically gave Gary Oldman the role.  How did the filmmakers accomplish this incredible feat of cinema magic? Well for most of the film Oldman is basically on his knees with a prosthetic part of his head and face and a hump and different kinds of harnesses to strap his arms back to make them short.

Eventually after doing some soul-searching (and learning all about dwarves from Gary Oldman ) Beckinsale decides to have the baby anyway, though she feels McConaughey has a lot of ambivalence about his family being little, and would benefit from psychological help. Artfully, she conveys this sentiment by saying, “I think you have a lot of ambivalence about your family being little. It’s not healthy, and I think you should consider getting some help.”

Sure enough, when Beckinsale gives birth to a dwarf, McConaughey is forced to confront his ambivalence about his family being little. At this point, his performance segues from laconic smiles (when he’s being “charming”) and concerned looks (when he’s being thoughtful) to bug-eyed craziness, as he angrily demands that Beckinsale call their new-born a dwarf.

Amusingly, the film’s trailer heralds Oldman’s part as “the role of a lifetime.” Considering that his lifetime includes playing Sid Vicious, Dracula, Lee Harvey Oswald, Joe Orton, Sirius Black, Jim Gordon, Beethoven, and Drexl Spivey in True Romance, this seems a tad hyperbolic. Oldman has had at least five roles of a lifetime, this isn’t one of them. In fact, even after watching Tiptoes, I’m still not entirely convinced that it’s a real film, and not an elaborate practical joke.

You can buy the film HERE.

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Stephen Pryde-Jarman is a Cult TV and Film journalist, award winning short story writer, playwright and screenwriter. A natural hoarder, second hand shopping fulfils his basic human need for hunter-gathering; but rummaging through a charity shop’s bric-a-brac shelf also brought him the inspiration for his novel Rubble Girl having seen a picture of a Blitz survivor sat amongst the rubble of her house with a cup and saucer. Rubble Girl has been described as " thought-provoking" and "fast paced ... with plenty of twists and turns." Amazon.

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