Movie: Movies about family troubles are a mixed bag, like most other genres. You can get stuck in a weepy chick flick or an impossibly romanticized version of life far too easily. In a movie that seemed to spring to life from a John Cougar Mellencamp song, Tully deals with the life of a couple of brothers and a father trying to squeak by in tough times.
The story centered on a young man, Tully Coates (Anson Mount), who plays off his good looks to get whatever he can out of life while living on the family farm in Nebraska. He's open and a can have pretty much any female he desires by using his good looks and personality to their best advantage. His shy brother, Earl Coates (Glenn Fitzgerald), is less secure about life and himself. He provides what amounts to a counterbalance to his brother's exploits. between the two is an intelligent young gal, Ella Smalley (Julianne Nicholson) who starts developing an attraction for Tully, yet realizing he's a terrible guy to get involved with. Rounding out the main characters is the boys' dad, Tully Sr. (Bob Burrus), who plays a stoic man in hard times. As the movie unfolds, we see his character in a whole new light, as his secrets come back to haunt him.
Most of the movie shows Tully going through changes in how he not only looks at life but those around him. Having always been able to get what he wants at the drop of a hat, he considers his younger brother a bit of a loser. He also thinks his old man is weak, not knowing all the facts, and treats the two less well than he should, given their circumstances. As he spends time with his stripper girlfriend, he sees something in his brother's female pal, Ella, and gets more interested in her when she rebukes his advances. A challenge is something he's never really had before and when all is said and done, he develops a crush for her, even knowing she can't stand his ways.
The acting was top notch from a crew of lesser known performers and the direction from Hilary Birmingham was solid in many ways. You can see her documentary roots in many scenes yet she keeps the story flowing with the best of them. In many ways, her style of direction is complementary to the wayward youth focused on here and that's no small feat. In this case, her low budget didn't hurt the story as presented and it's a wonder that the movie wasn't better received in the mainstream.
The movie gives us a lot to think about as well. From relationships to personal vanity to priorities in life, it doesn't give too many easy answers. My biggest complaint in that regard would be with the (near) ending but otherwise it showed realistic circumstances about a family about to lose it all due to a family secret long since buried. That the scenery was so beautiful helped contrast the troubled times and I'm sure repeated viewings will uncover other aspects that aren't as readily absorbed. For all it's positive aspects, I rate this one as Highly Recommended.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio widescreen color. The picture had a number of minor artifacts and the fleshtones weren't always exactly right, nor were the other aspects of the picture top of the line. It was okay but nothing great.
Sound: The sound was presented in stereo with some separation between the channels. It was generally very clear with a decent soundtrack.
Extras: The extras consisted of a trailer for the feature and the film short, The Third Date. The film details the third date between a grandson of a mobster and a Russian gal on what amounted to a disastrous date that eventually proves the guy right when he claims it will be a "night you'll never forget".
Final Thoughts: I enjoyed the movie on a few levels and only wish the budget had been high enough to make the picture look better. The production was somewhat jinxed by a variety of problems, including bankruptcy of the financing company, several names changes and the like, yet it remains a very interesting movie. For all it's rough edges, anyone not looking for a typical coming of age movie will likely enjoy it.