In director Aaron Woodley's second feature film, two brothers (seasoned stage actor Adam Rothenberg and newcomer Ethan Peck) brave a formulaic road trip of self-discovery set to a backdrop of dried-out plains and tired old towns. Rothenberg plays Carter, the troubled big brother to Peck's Ellis. As a teenager, Carter was a promising football star, until his father's alcohol-induced rages forced the boys and their mother to split town. Fifteen years later, some time after their mother's death, Carter bears the wounds of his past with taste for liquor and a dead-end job, and struggles to care for the innocent, bird-like Ellis. When Ellis is diagnosed with acute leukemia, the brothers must embark on a journey back to the titular state to find their father, their last hope for a viable bone marrow transplant. Along the way, they meet Mariah Carey in her go-to role as Krystal, a waitress mired in an abusive marriage who dreams of becoming a singer.
Despite the artistic force of exceptional cinematography, composed in an almost photographic manner, the film suffers from a simplistic plot. Though well acted, the characters are sprung from familiar molds — the down-trodden mid-lifer who needs a second chance, the good person who is sick and the abused woman who takes control of her life — and the loose ends get tied up with a revelation that pushes for tears. In the end, the most pleasing aspect of this film about overcoming life's obstacles and achieving seemingly impossible dreams is that Carey, whose first film Glitter was a disappointment we'd all rather forget, actually does get a second chance, and delivers a redeeming performance.