A review of the movie Tennessee with Mariah Carey
by Joseph Jagde
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The setting of this movie is present day, and the story evolves around two brothers who now live in New Mexico and are formerly from Tennessee.
Early on, we learn that the younger brother has leukemia, and needs a bone marrow transplant if he is going to overcome this illness. The likely candidate for a match, his older brother Carter, doesn’t work with the tests and the next option would be the father from Tennessee who they have long ago disassociated themselves from due to his harshness and some unnamed events that might have happened years ago.
While, the younger brother, Ellis, who is played by Ethan Peck who is the grandson of Gregory Peck, is ill, for most of the film he looks and seems healthy but an illness such as this can be somewhat dormant as far as clear symptoms, but it makes this film easier to watch given that for the most part he is not walking around sickly looking.
As the brothers begin to journey back to Tennessee in search of their father who is the last available known hope for a matching donor, they stop in a luncheonette in New Mexico and Ellis strikes up a conversation with Krystal, a waitress played by Mariah Carey.
While watching this film, you know this is Mariah Carey the international pop star so it is interesting that she is playing more or less just a regular person out of the limelight.
What is positive about this film, is that from this point on, her character is most prominent and stays on for the whole movie so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy seeing Mariah Carey for the whole ride of this movie without worrying about her sudden disappearance from the screen.
What is striking right away, is the outstanding speaking voices of the principle actors and Ellis played by the grandson of Gregory Peck has a great and grand speaking voice to match with Krystal’s.
Carter seems embittered and in an early twilight of his life now where things have already seemed to pass him by and flashback scenes point to a difficult relationship with his father that may have formed into roadblocks to his dreams. Carter had been the star quarterback in High school,a big time college prospect, and in love with a lovely young lady and the future seemed golden bright in those days in the spotlight as he had big time potential and seemingly great days ahead.
The director said in the Q and A afterwards that the time frame for the movie was present day and the year when Carter was in high school and the star was 1993. I don’t remember this information being in the movie itself as to the exact time frames and years but the backdrop then would be about 15 years.
Carter’s great potential seems long lost under intervening clouds of trouble which now seem partly self imposed. We don’t know what exactly intervened towards him not finding that path, but he seems also to have somewhat turned on himself as well due to what was lost.
Krystal sees in the words of the Ellis, encouragement and a reawakening towards her dormant dreams and talents of being a great singer and widely known or at least brought to the proper stage for these talents. When their car breaks down, she brings them to her home for the night and in this scene we find out her husband, a formerly supposed nice guy who is a big time police officer, entertaining questionable friends and he has found and activated a unruly side towards Crystal that has crossed boundaries and is now out of control. She reminisces to earlier times when the marriage was okay and now feels that she must leave.
Thinking on her feet, she plots the early morning escape before her husband and drunken friends awake and starts with on a road trip back to Tennessee with these brothers she has just met and the specific destination is Nashville.
The angry husband follows after her and a cross country chase ensues.
As you watch this film, it is pretty easy to keep thinking this is Mariah Carey and she comes across as someone you could hang out with, someone who is down to earth, reasonable, quick on her feet and understanding and in control. While films like this tend to use loud arguments to elicit emotion, this film has a softer touch and is more pensive, yet emotion is achieved in these characters.
Within the movie, Mariah Carey does a full length version of the song, I can dream, and the overall soundtrack of the film is obviously is very good.
The scenery brought about in this film is quite good as a representation of middle America.
Also, the story of Carter hits home for the athlete whose glory days are over, yet faint sounds from those glory days seem to echo forward into an unresolved mystery for him and this mystery needs to be in some way unraveled and rethought if he is to begin a new future for himself in the present days. Also unresolved issues from the past seem to drag the character of Carter down in the present and the movie expresses its opinion on that as well and gives possible ways to rethink the past and move away from what had gone wrong for him.
What I like about this movie, is that it didn’t reach into the excessive to evoke emotion, there weren’t long drawn out shouting matches and the characters seemed to have a studied coolness about what was happening and despite its potentially crumbling nature, they still maintained dignity and class. The swiftness of the film and the chase, seems to give pause to how decisions are also made not just in quiet reflection but in the speed of rapidly changes circumstances as well.
There is one scene that reminded me of the movie It’s a Wonderful life where George sees Mary working at the library as an old maid in the sequence with his guardian angel.In this case, whether it can still be a Wonderful life is unsettled, but the moment of chance indeed may not have passed and maybe it can still be a Wonderful life for Carter in particular.
This film may have a wide following for its clear presentation of Mariah Carey as a real person, outside of her iconic status in music and its overall nice feel and poetic qualities.
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