K Austin Collins in Slate:
Dana, you’re absolutely right to wonder what happened to The Tale; it’s exactly the kind of movie I have in mind, underseen despite tackling one of the most urgent subjects of our moment. I may have seen better movies overall this year, but I don’t think any of them had a conceit that shook me as deeply as this one. It all comes down to a simple, harrowing thing that Jennifer Fox does to depict how the heroine of the film, also named Jennifer Fox (and played by Laura Dern), remembers a sexual relationship she had with her tennis coach as a teenager. She initially remembers herself as confident and sexually self-possessed; she remembers herself, in other words, as a young woman somewhat in control of what happened to her, and, as the movie reveals, this has led her to remember what happened as a more consensual affair, rather than as abuse.
But then comes the moment that we see Fox correct her memory, replaying the same flashbacks using a teen actress closer in demeanor and body type to the scared girl Fox actually was, rather than the woman she supposed she was. It’s shattering—an exceptional feat of writing, and of course, Dern kills the performance. It’s not an easy scene to watch, but The Tale is an easy film to see and has been for most of the year—it’s right there on HBO! But short of the ability of Oscar attention to revive discussion about that film, the full-fledged online discussion cycle for it has come and gone. It’s bewildering.