By Stephen Saito
In a festival that's boasted such fine music docs as "Lou Reed's Berlin" and "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music," along with an appearance from Madonna to promote the non-musical Malawi doc "I Am Because We Are," Tribeca has also turned out to be a place where musicians put down their instruments and pick up scripts. Though acting is nothing particularly new for either Mariah Carey or Dave Matthews, the two have taken on supporting roles in the low-budget films "Tennessee" and "Lake City," respectively, both in this year's line-up. Here's a look at how they measured up.
Mariah Carey, "Tennessee"
Albums sold: Over 160 million worldwide.
Previous acting experience: "Glitter," the straight-to-DVD "WiseGirls"
Role believability: We're inclined to believe that Carey's early moments in the film, as a forlorn waitress longing for a better life, might've been inspired by the fact that shooting in New Mexico was probably not that exciting to Mimi. And once we see her sitting by the side of the road in front of the Route 66 Restaurant where she works with a notebook, humming, we know "Tennessee" isn't going to be a real stretch for Carey as an actress. The same can't be said for her character's plunging neckline.
Stunt double justification: Mariah can't drive...sort of. For a relatively slow speed chase away from her husband, who just happens to be a state trooper, Carey's character Krystal manages some nifty wheel work to evade a fast-approaching tractor. Although Krystal gets away by hopping a train, Carey can't escape the end credits, which reveal that she had a stunt driver.
Huh? Moment: There are a few, but if we have to choose, the gem is when Krystal overhears a guy who she just met telling someone on the phone how great she is — she's really nice and boy, she should go to Nashville with him and his brother. He then asks her to greet the mystery person on the other end of the line. When she picks up the phone and realizes no one's there, she continues the conversation. The runner up for this category is Carey's delivery of the following phrases: "You don't know your limits. You know what happens to people who don't have limits? They cross the line."
Interesting character quality: Teaches the guys how to drink tequila shots at an Oklahoma dive bar.
Does she sing? Well, yeah. In fact, the more cynical members of the audience might wonder if the only reason Carey signed on was to sing "Right to Dream," a sort of "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" for those old enough to be in the latter category, but who've come of age since watching Britney Spears cover the same territory in "Crossroads." Never mind that Carey's coming out moment happens during a Nashville talent competition where her R & B stylings seem strangely out of place.
Scene partner from acting royalty: Ethan Peck, grandson of Gregory, plays the leukemia-stricken man who, along with his brother, invites Carey's character to Nashville.
Hit song that needs reevaluation after "Tennessee": "Shake It Off," because really what else can Carey do?
Should she give up her day job? No, though we'll give her some credit, since the three gentlemen sitting next to us during Sunday night's screening of "Tennessee" came ready to laugh, complete with a flask of booze, which they managed to get to the bottom of without even letting out a chuckle.
Dave Matthews, "Lake City"
Albums sold: Over 35 million worldwide.
Previous acting experience: "Because of Winn Dixie," "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," that episode of "House"
Role believability: We would never have thought of Matthews as a badass drug dealer, but those nervous ticks he usually gets when hitting a high note pop up in his performance, making him an unpredictable and engaging villain. He also sports a surprisingly creepy beard.
Stunt double justification: Less than five minutes into the film, Matthews' thug Red is interrogating Troy Garity's Billy over some missing drugs, and unwisely allows Billy a drink and a smoke. Alas, Billy swished his drink rather than swallowed, creating a blowtorch effect when Red offers him a light and Billy spits the alcohol in his face. The action in the scene in seamless, but we're assuming Matthews' credited stunt double Chris Moore was the one who took the heat.
Huh? Moment: In the opening credits, Matthews is credited as "David," which may be an attempt to separate his acting career from his music career. We'll gladly call him whatever he'd like as long as he doesn't kick our ass, and we'll even apologize for mocking that Tribe of Heaven album.
Interesting character quality: Has a hard time getting out of bed. Red makes a point of yelling repeatedly how he just got out of bed before answering a knock on the door to his hotel room.
Does he sing? No, and his character is not a man with a song in his heart, but rather a gun stuffed down the back of his pants.
Scene partner from acting royalty: Troy Garity, son of Jane Fonda (and Tom Hayden), plays a man who returns home with a dangerous past, which includes Matthews' drug dealer.
Hit song that needs reevaluation after "Lake City": "What Would You Say?" now suddenly seems like less of a come on than a terse directive.
Should he give up his day job? Probably not, but while Matthews is likely never going to make leading man, "Lake City" demonstrates that his quirks might allow for a nice career as a character actor in supporting roles.
[Photo: Dave Matthews and Troy Garity in "Lake City," Mark Johnson Productions, 2008]