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After the film was over the writer spoke to us about intentionally writing little dialogue so that the actors were allowed to bring their character to life on their own terms. However, it felt at times like the film was too silent and lacked dialogue in important places towards the beginning where the brothers appear at a lost for words because there were simply no lines written. Also, it's hard understanding the relationship between the two brothers and their father without adequate back story. I would have liked to know a little more about how the father came to be the way he was - the few flashbacks did not help explain it. But on another positive note, like an audience member pointed out the film does have a beautiful landscape. The scenery featured throughout include various mountains, valleys and day/evening aerial shots which brought life to the overall picture. I don't recall much of a soundtrack but the one Mariah song was clearly a throwaway from her songbook, which may have been intentional since we're to believe she's an amateur just starting out on her journey to stardom. In conclusion, I'd say the actors all did a fine job with the script they were given and put their best foot forward. However, I think it'd be fair to state that this could have been a much better film with stronger dialogue and better direction.
Ellis (Ethan Peck, definitely an actor on the rise) and Carter (Adam Rothenberg (ditto) are brothers; their mother is dead and their father has a history of abusing the boys to the point that Ellis and Carter no longer see him. Ellis is a photographer by hobby, taking photographs of mountains and landscapes in their Tennessee small town: Carter drinks too much but looks after his younger brother. Ellis is diagnosed as having leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant - Carter offers but despite being siblings the match is not adequate. The brothers set out on a trip to be together and end up in New Mexico. But soon they are on the road again and in Texas they pause at a diner where they meet Krystal (Mariah Carey) waiting tables, but preferring to write songs. Seeing that the brothers have no money, Krystal takes them home - she is married to an alcoholic Texas Ranger Frank (Lance Reddick) who routinely beats her and demands that the 'freeloaders' be gone in the morning. The next morning the three of them take the car and head to Tennessee - the boys have decided that Ellis' only hope is to find their father to see if he is a candidate to donate bone marrow. The three are chased by Frank until they finally reach Tennessee where, for need of cash, Krystal sings in a nightclub contest and captures the audience's approval while she now has money to give to the brothers to find their father.
How these disparate, desperate people come together emotionally and the manner in which the story ends may seem too pat for some, but for viewers with vulnerable hearts this little film will be fulfilling. Each of the cast is excellent, but it is such a pleasure to see Mariah Carey in a role that merits her talent and find that she handles it so well is rewarding. It is a small story with a huge heart.
Aaron Woodley's "Tennessee," directing from a Russell Schaumberg script, is one of those films with a plot that's difficult to even briefly summarize without revealing spoilers. Due to a tragic turn of events, brothers Carter (Adam Rothenberg) and Ellis Armstrong (Ethan Peck) embark on a journey from their trailer home outside Albuquerque, New Mexico to their hometown in Tennessee. In so doing, they must face a past they'd rather avoid. Along the way they meet up with a young would-be singer-songwriter (Carey) whose own dreams need some inspiration and support. The IMDb page has a comprehensive synopsis.
Although three people dominate the film, it's the young men who are the focus of the story, not the Mariah Carey character, a fact which will likely be lost on many who see the cast of the film without giving it a chance. Adam Rothenberg and Ethan Peck are the actors who carry this film with their powerful personalities. Carter (Rothenberg) is gruff, rough, tough, and downright dirty. He drinks and swears up a storm. In perfect contrast, younger brother Ellis (Ethan) is soft, sensitive, sweet, and tender, with his creativity demonstrated in his love for photography. It's hard to imagine anyone with a sibling, or even a close friend, who won't be able to relate to one or the other (or both).
The landscape of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Tennessee is so stunning that even the most inexperienced cinematographer would have had a hard time avoiding the beautiful vistas which help give the film its lush look. Here, in the hands of David Greene, "Tennessee" becomes a true travelogue, filled with jaw-dropping sunsets and breathtaking peaks. Of course, the fact that the film's protagonist is a photographer makes the visual style that much more appropriate. Natural and single-point lighting give the film a soft appearance. What Mariah Carey adds most to the storyline is her music, and the country soundtrack is perfectly in tune with the towns through which they travel.
The biggest surprise for me was that "Tennessee" is not as comedic as many films with even darker themes. The recent trend towards gallows humor, provoking nervous laughter in similar stories, isn't apparent here. There are more tears than laughter, and even when the film is trying to be light the result is more often a smile than a chuckle. It's touching nonetheless and not as depressing as the storyline would indicate.
It's a road movie that's poignant and touching with overplaying the genre to the point of sugary sweetness, as many do. There are enough twists and turns along the way to retain viewer interest even beyond the initial concept. The setup comes early but surprises abound. "Tennessee" is that sweet little American indie which is the elusive holy grail of film festivals.
The last 20 seconds of the movie was sub-par; I hope they change it before the release.
The main reason I was still disappointed with the film despite being pleasantly surprised by the acting was because it was a bit slow and I wasn't in the mood for a drama (I'm not usually in the mood for a drama, to be honest). And that's exactly what this is. So if you like'em a little emotional and slow (think Terms of Endearment but not quite as funny), you'll probably enjoy the movie. But if you prefer action or comedy, spare yourself.
It isn't a sentimental tale, but you want to see what happens.
Strangely the whole movie is filmed with an orange filter. The scenes progress slowly - could have been sped up.
The ending has a poignant little twist. Wish there had been a bit more shown at the end.
Many times when a person from the general public goes to see a film, they never take into account the reason why it is as good as it is to view. Well the reason is not only the story line from the writers perspective but the people behind the making of it as well.
In the case of "Tennessee", I had the opportunity to be there while Dusty Dukatz spun his magic in directing certain scenes in this production.
Many times during the days I was able to witness Mr. Dukatz and his expertise; I saw a determined individual with a huge responsibility put together a crew of professionals along with actors and the background extras to make each scene come off without additional retakes.
Dusty's genius in putting action to film is amazing. I hope in the near future more film producers and production companies realize Dustys huge talent in helping make the magic of film become completed as the final product for the coveted viewing audiences.
Just as Mr. Wayne Newton has the title of "Mr. Las Vegas" Dusty Dukatz should retain the title of "Mr. Magic" because of his knowledge and experience in creating a movie. Great job Dusty looking forward to working with you again.
-New Mexico Casting-