Intellectually precocious prep schoolboy, Oscar Grubman, is guiltily distant from his father Stanley because he is in love with his stepmother, Eve. After he sleeps with her best friend Diane in a drunken misadventure, Diane's indiscretion increases Oscar's emotional turmoil.
This coming-of-age piece tries to be sophisticated and French. Indeed, 15 year-old Oscar reads Voltaire and has a thing for, what the French call, women 'of a certain age'.
In New York, where this Woody-Allen-meets-Whit-Stillman derivative unfolds, middle-aged seductresses are called 'felons'. Unlike men, women know they look pathetic if they screw boys who could be their sons. True, Oscar is unnaturally beyond his years (Stanford is a fresh-faced 23), but his maturity is, like too much else here, unconvincing.
Awkward dialogues, Manhattan walkabouts and film theory exercises fill the space around the centrepiece, a dinner party at which embarrassing revelations have some amusing charm.
Shot in 14 days on digital video for $150,000, Tadpole won the Director's Award and a pick-up from Miramax at Sundance, which shows it is still possible for indie go-getters to make their own breaks, even if the work is half-baked.
It should be tender or farcical, but dithers in an uneasy middle ground. The performances are stronger than the slight story development.