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"Tully" is a gem of a movie! It's the first film I've seen since the
beginning of August that I've put on my "Best of 2002" list. Evidently
debut feature has apparently been sitting on a shelf for two years,
looking for distribution.
Based on a short story, it takes a simple family story and tells it beautifully visually, economically but leisurely, while avoiding cliches. It is the best evocation of small town life since "Last Picture Show," but this is much more rural. The laconic farmer family is the best portrayed since "Straight Story," but that was propelled as a road movie, not what taciturn life on the farm is like, which poses a challenge in a communicative medium.
We see the most charming and complicated relationship between two brothers since another little movie "Smiling Fish and Goats on Fire." Surprisingly, it doesn't take the simple road of competition between the titular womanizing "bad brother" and the younger, loyal "good brother". Instead, Tully (Anson Mount is quite a hunk!) is a direct descendant of the tortured, conflicted James Dean of "East of Eden" and "Giant" (including the Oedipal conflicts there), struggling in a macho environment with his impact on women, his feelings, and his responsibilities.
With completely character appropriate dialogue and body language we watch the impact of old love and falling in love on a father and son who have no words and only gradual understanding. You can't know you're heartbroken until you know you have a heart. The women can have this impact on them because they too are not cliches; they have specific personalities, needs, and even jobs. Julianne Nicholson is very credible and expressive.
Several old men in my audience yawned loudly, so maybe this is a chick flick, but I was involved and moved by the unfolding of realizations in their past and present family and romantic relationships and how Tully comes to grips with them all, like a long, silent, overhead shot of him waking up in an empty bed that manages to communicate so much loneliness and longing.
John Foster's cinematography is simply gorgeous.
The mise en scene is common in country songs, so we're lucky that the director probably couldn't afford commercial country artists on the soundtrack for the usual cliches. Instead we have Canadian alt country singers like Fred Eaglesmith and Oh Susanna (the only names I recognized), with some blues thrown in as well such that Tully even asks what radio station could that be, as they are all very sensitive to music, as it helps them all communicate with each other. And with us.
Produced by Hilary Birmingham, Annie Sundberg, and included in the Best
Feature nomination of the Independent Spirits Awards, this film is
definitely a must-see movie.
The film's themes are not too distant from those of About Schmidt, but comes through within incredibly heartfelt and genuine feel about the story. It's easy to get totally hooked to all the characters. It's brilliantly shot, the characters molding in with the landscapes in a manner that exposes their soulful moods.
Truly a solidly good story with an honest, thought provoking, and poignant coming-of-age revelation. Absolutely top-notched performances from a lovely cast ensemble of actors! It's a farm drama that creeps with hidden dark family secrets that gradually unravel at a cool, quiet, and awesomely engaging pace. Watching the mesmerizing performance of charismatic Julianne Nicholson alone is worth the price of a regular tix. For me, she's the American version of Leslie Carron; for a friend, she's the American version of Emily Watson! Awesomely poised, simple, and charmingly charismatic, she's extremely captivating! And Glenn FitzGerald and Anson Mount in their roles as the Coates brothers - are two gorgeous youths who couldn't be more different in their personalities and traits, will sweep the audience along a truly heartfelt journey of unsuspecting events that are beautifully knitted together to their final twists. Catherine Kellner's haughty April character is just as credible as the rest of the fine cast of actors. One will even find Natalie Canaday's counter-sales lady a real sweetheart! But Bob Burrus in the role of Tully, Sr. is overwhelming in his performance as the father with the bottled-up feelings. Yep he's definitely more convincing than Jack Nicholson's Schmidt role!
This is one of those few movies that deserve a mighty applause for the good foresight of the casting agent(s). Every once of action, event and expression seems so realistic. It's easy to get so totally swept away by every character. The film does succeed in delivering honest moods of romance, parental and sibling relationships, love, seduction and jealousy, or relationship. There exist that unique sensibility that does not equate with cheesy sexual exploits or crudity. It's not even plastered with any of those distasteful hip-hop extravaganzas to draw the younger viewers. Nice easy dialogue to follow.
According to Director Hilary Birmingham at the Q&A session I attended, the unfortunate delay of the film's release was caused by unforeseen mishaps in distribution deals; firstly by an American-Canadian distribution partnership that went sour, and subsequently by one that went bankrupt. I understand that this film will be released here, sometime in January. As a low-budget film, it definitely deserves no less than a solid A rating!
Saw this movie twice and would be willing to see it again!
Tully investigates how the loss of a parent can mark a child and
affect the adult they become.
This film earned a rare second viewing. Even with a more critical eye, the performances seemed more than genuine. The tears, glances, body language, and smiles were perfectly rendered and filmed. I blew through the still pictures shown in the opening credits during the 1st showing, but appreciated the story they told with the knowledge I had about the characters with the 2nd look.
Casting kudos for the delicious Anson Mount, the graceful Julianna Nicholson, and the sweet, wounded dad.
Yes, it's a rural-paced film. Don't be in a hurry!
This film was like a breath of fresh air. It only played locally for a
couple of weeks, if that much. Obviously, this film would have fared better
had it gone to the Angelika or the Sunshine where a young crowd would have
discovered it. I only caught it at the end of the run and I'm glad I did
because not only it's a beautifully done, but because it's an honest account
Director Hilary Birmnigham working with Matt Drake have created something rare in American cinema a well written drama with interesting and complex characters, a script that doesn't depend on special effects or the formula that most mainstream films.
The cast is superb. Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholoson, and Glenn Fitzgerald shine brightly in this film. Also Bob Burrus as the taciturn father is very effective.
I'm sure that by now it should be in DVD since it was done in 2000, you won't regret it.
Was it great acting or great directing or a great script that made this
film work so well? The people in the movie Tully are not one
dimensional, they are real people. I loved all of them. The way the
father pursed his lips.
The way Tully sometimes looked handsome, sometimes plain. The way Ella gave just the right thing at the right time. The way the clerk cheerfully bantered. The way Earl corrected Tully's misremembering. The town sleaze's greasy humor. I wish I knew any of them, even April! :) The main thing that struck me about Tully is the trueness of the dialog. It was minimal, the way people really are, shown from the outside in, without being corny. Everyone gave great performances. The movie is special. Hope I see more of every actor in this film, all of whom were new to me. All were MEMORABLE. That says a lot because I think I have early Alzheimers! Too bad this movie wasn't a hit. I wish I lived on a farm and/or had this kind of sensitive, nuanced experience everyday! Unpretentious.
TULLY (2002) **** Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholson, Glenn Fitzgerald, Catherine Kellner, Bob Borrus, Natalie Canerday, John Diehl, V. Craig Hedenreich. Novice filmmaker Hilary Birmingham (who co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Drake, adapting a short story by Tom McNeal) beautifully captures the visage of rural small-town America(na) in contemporary tones in this wonderfully modulated tale about a middle-aged farmer (Borrus, a truly amazing low-key yet ultimately heartbreaking performance as a man who has sacrificed so much and tenuously hanging onto what is his own: his land and family) and his two sons (Mount as the titular protagonist and Fitzgerald are equally poignant and excellent) who face a moment from their past that clearly will alter their precarious futures. Nicholson (sporting cinema's sexiest freckles) as the family's friend is sublimely perfect as a veterinarian school student who returns to town arousing the boys' one more time. Gorgeously shot by John Foster and a gentle, pensive score by Marcelo Zarvos elevates this true sleeper gem as one of the year's very best.
Based on a short story by O. Henry prize-winning author Tom McNeal, Tully by
first-time director Hilary Birmingham, is a subtle portrait, set in a sleepy
farm community somewhere in Nebraska, of a family whose past shows up
without warning, shattering the trust and unity that had been built over the
years. Originally called The Truth About Tully, the film won praise at the
2000 Toronto Film Festival, but lost several distributors to bankruptcy and
had to wait two years until it achieved a limited release last November. Its
current release on DVD gives us a chance to see what we've missed.
Rancher Tully Coates, Sr. (Bob Burrus) mourns the death of his wife while struggling to raise two sons and keep up his farm. Coates keeps a lid on his feelings, and no one suspects the powerful secrets he has hidden. Burrus is perfect as the weathered old farmer who has forgotten how to enjoy life and only smiles at Claire (Natalie Canerday), the clerk at the local convenience store. His two sons are very different, but both are good hearted. Tully Jr. (Anson Mount) is a macho ladies' man who seems unwilling to make commitments, content to skim along on the surface of life. His brother Earl (Glenn Fitzgerald) is withdrawn and shy with girls, a movie buff who spends his days going to the cinema or preparing his steer for the County Fair.
Into this mix comes Ella Smalley (Julianne Nicholson), just home from college to do an internship as a veterinarian in a local hospital. She hangs out with Earl, but wants to be friends with Tully. Nicholson's performance is amazing, bringing an intense authenticity to her role. Tully, meanwhile, is pursuing April (Catherine Kellner), a stripper who refers to what she does as burlesque but senses the possibility of something more than friendship with Ella.
There is not much dialogue, but the action does not require much. When feelings become troublesome, each escapes to their own place where they can be alone. Ella goes to a swimming hole, Earl goes to the movies, and the father parks his truck and downs a six-pack. When bits and pieces of a family secret begin to be revealed and the farm is threatened with foreclosure, events force Tully to face the realities that the term "coming-of-age" implies. The film moves at a languid pace for most of the time but builds toward an emotional climax, as the lazy summer is jarred by an unexpected event, changing lives forever.
The people in Tully are not the small town yokels of movie clichés. They are smart and sensitive, and not the least bit cool or cynical. Probably too wholesome for many who prefer their role models to be a bit more jaded, these people talk to each other with dignity and respect, and I cared about them. In lesser hands, Tully could have become the stuff of soap opera, yet guided by Birmingham's sure direction, it goes straight to the heart.
Tully is a movie that captures the feel of the rural plains. Growing up in the rural plains, I feel like I know many characters in the movie. Tully Sr. reminds me of so many quiet, polite farmers I've met. The cinematography gives the feeling of blissful vastness. The film also captures the true beauty of this part of the country with it's ever blue skies, green rolling fields, and cool breezes on hot summer days. In Tully one also sees the dark side of life in a place where you might have thought the worst things to happen are Tully Jr.'s fights with his many girlfriends. Julianne Nicholson is beautiful playing the wholesome good-girl. The two brothers do a great job of portraying the good son and wild son. Facts about the characters' lives are gut-wrenching as you discover alongside Tully Jr.. This independent film blows away the typical shoot-'em-up blockbuster.
This film was beautifully shot and acted. The characters were extremely compelling and drew me right into the story through the ordinariness of the family and circumstances. The people in the film were complex but never felt untouchable. Felt like they could have been my neighbors. Absolutely loved the film and I am excited to see what Birmingham's next film will be.
this movie is amazing...one of the absolute best i've seen in years! i
rented the DVD one weekend and watched this movie six times...i now own
it and never tire of it.
i wish i had the vocabulary to describe it as it should be. i loved everything about it...the acting, the characters were familiar and real, nothing contrived. i loved the simplicity of their relationships...one of my favorites is that between Tully Sr. and Claire. i loved the landscape and scenery...the family home, barns, corn fields, the movie theater, bar, and grocery in town.
i grew up in the midwest and have since moved, but was transported back while watching this...the same small town, farms, and fields. Tully Jr. and Earl actually reminded me of my own brothers and their relationship.
the music was great and complemented the movie...very simple, subtle, beautiful!
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