Nothing new and not done well. Good actors and good directors (Hilary Birminghm) can take an old repackaged story and make for a pleasant and enjoyable film, a nice way to pass the time. But mediocre acting and uninspired directing of an unoriginal story just makes for relatively boring two hours. Julianne Nicholson does the best job.
This film tackles some tough issues that allow the characters to become rich and emotionally challenged against the rural Nebraska background. The title character is shallow and detached, but desperately looking for something more. He is naturally attractive, which allows for excessive female attention, but deep down he knows that will never make him happy.
Tully and his younger brother, Earl, have assumed their mother died in a car accident when they were little when, in all actuality, she just abandoned the family. Now that she is dying of cancer, with her medical bills in the family farm's name, is forcing them to foreclose. This is the basic line of the plot and I explain it specifically because it strongly contrasts with the simplicity of these people's natural lives.
The way these characters deal with the tragedies and hardships dealt to them is the heart of this film's success. Nothing in this movie feels "like a movie" and the gap between cinematic objective viewing and reality is bridged, thus opening the flood gate of respect for characters as rich and alive as anyone we know.
That's the beauty of the movies.
Instead, it turned out to be a slow-moving drama set on a farm. Ok, slight change from expectation, but as I've said, I'm ok with that, and like being surprised. It did take a bit to get used to, though it did open immediately on Anson Mount (the titular Tully, in this case a "Jr.") having a fight around a dirt mound on said farm with Glenn Fitzgerald (as his brother Earl). They were laughing and throwing handfuls of dirt back and forth as their father (Tully Coates Sr, of course, played by Bob Burrus) looked on with some level of disapproval. As these things are wont to do, one of Tully's handfuls goes awry and hits Earl in the eye. As always happens, Early immediately forgets the light-hearted nature of the fight and begins yelling profanities at his brother. At this point, Tully Sr. decides to step in and admonish the two of them for screwing around.
Soon we see Earl in a theatre enjoying a movie with one eye covered in gauze, and Tully comes in to pester him to go out looking for women with him. Now, I'm set dead against Tully at this point, for being a jerk to his brother and for committing the cardinal sin of talking in a movie theatre, loudly, obnoxiously and with no regard for those asking him to shut the hell up. Oops, it's going to be an uphill battle for my sympathies now.
We see Tully at work now in a bar, sitting with a few friends when he's informed that April Reece, local "hottie" is staring at him. He eventually works his way over there and has a conversation with her. The next day, the two of them go out for the hour she has before work and have sex in the back of his car. She leaves him to walk home from there--not because she's hurt, but because she doesn't really care.
As seems to be inevitable in most films set on a farm, yes, a nervous and unhappy man appears with a letter which Tully and Earl's father reads privately, and yes, there's that word--foreclosure. It's not addressed as melodrama, thankfully, since the concept itself is enough of a clichÚ. But it works just fine anyway. They are, as you might have gathered, a family of three alone, as their mother (Tully Sr's wife, naturally) died fifteen years earlier.
The only other primary character to really worry about is Ella, a neighbor and friend to Earl, who is not happy with Tully's irritatingly hedonistic womanizing and self-centered outlook--berating his father for letting him look "stupid" when he discovered the bank had frozen their assets after finding out about the foreclosure, instead of worrying in any way about the foreclosure itself. Ella ignores Tully for much of the movie, because she's a smart girl and is not going to fall for his usual charms and appearance, but we can see glimmers of something in her for him as a human being (wherever THAT is).
Honestly, though, we do start to see the cracks in the fašade that Tully maintains to have sex with a half dozen women around town--he feels alone and abandoned by his mother for her death, and is not willing to care much about anyone or anything else except himself to avoid that same feeling coming back to him.
For a cast of folks I knew absolutely nothing about, barring Glenn Fitzgerald (Earl, for the record, is a more compassionate if angsty son to Tully Sr.) and John Diehl, who plays a small role as a man who had an affair with the late Irene Coates, I was pretty impressed with the performances. A late night conversation between the two Tullys was especially of note. When they've both said everything they're willing to say--even if not everything they're thinking of saying--there's a pause, as Tully Jr. stares off, arms folded and leaned against a table, in that awkward way that fights end, before he finally walks out. It's very natural.
Apparently I was not as impressed as most people considering the ratings floating around the various sites I frequent and use to remind myself of actor names (or their previous experiences), but such is life. It was a pleasant enough movie, very well put together, but nothing terribly special in my opinion.