All Mariah, All Human

Lee Daniels’ production of “Tennessee” is a heartbreakingly human story about family, second chances and, as Mariah Carey’s character Krystal sings, “The Right to Dream.”

Set out in the Midwest, brothers Ellis (Ethan Peck) and Carter (Adam Rothenberg) have been on the run since 1993 from their abusive father, and eventually wind up in New Mexico. Carter had it all – he was quarterback and had a girlfriend, Laurel. However, he also has the weight of the world on his back. The film’s first scene conveys his baggage. He walks home with his girlfriend and hears a violent argument inside between his parents. His mother is beaten, and Carter winds up knocking out his father, grabbing his mom and kid brother and going on the run, leaving Laurel and his old life behind.

As the story progresses, one could see the fraternal chemistry between the two actors. They are different, but understand each other on levels unknown only by two kids who have went through such a sordid past. The present day Carter is a hard-ass drunk that will do everything for Ellis. His brother is a young man, who is now dying of cancer. The journey begins when they start on the road back to Tennessee in search of their deadbeat dad (their mother has since passed) for a bone-marrow transplant.

On their way, they come across a server (Carey) and her personal drama. She works a double shift at the diner, has an abusive police officer husband and is trapped in her situation.

Her way out comes in the form of Ellis, who is kindhearted and thanks her for a free Coke. He hears her singing on her break, and as the film develops, she joins them on their way to Tennessee. The addition of Carey to the group causes a rift between her and her violent husband, as the quest turns into a runaway.

Of course, Carey had a lot to prove with this one, and she shows that she has potential to grow as an actress. (She even nails the accent and weeps real tears!) It would not be a Carey film without a song, though, and “Right to Dream” is an acoustic guitar ballad with Mariah soul (written by Carey herself, along with Willie Nelson) sans the belting of high notes. It is a sad yet inspirational piece, which reflects the mood and characters of the film.

Overall, the film is not a disappointment. The performances were fantastic and the end scenes even had a bit of a surprising element to them. The characters make you reflect on your own life, regrets and hardships. This would have definitely made it in theaters if there was enough backing behind it. This film deserves a shot. This is a powerful story that needs to be viewed.

About Maria Sica 52 Articles
Maria Sica teaches Middle School English, tutors college students, and has recently completed her Master’s Degree in English Education at Brooklyn College. She loves keeping busy, yet does not mind the occasional moments when she can catch up with a good book wrapped in a fleece blanket, and drinking a cup of tea (which may sound boring to her friends and boyfriend, but she doesn’t care). She has always loved to read and write at an early age. She will be the first to admit that she is a nerd-and loves anything sci-fi such as the X-files. She is also a fan of Harry Potter and Spongebob Squarepants, and counts them as her favorite Heros next to Wonder Woman and Marty McFly. However, unlike most nerds, she can’t do math if her life, or yours, depended on it.

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