Movie review: Rough Tender

Originally published in City Pages, April 13, 2011

On the surface, Rough Tender looks like a standard-issue bad-boy-meets-good-girl movie. Beneath the surface, that’s still pretty accurate, but the film carries enough darkly comic charisma to elevate itself. The players here are violence-prone loner Barrett, who dresses like a ’50s greaser and lavishes affection on his ’68 Nova, and customer service rep Melanie, whose wholesome good looks are offset by her habit of babbling semi-coherently about every little thing. As their mismatched affair unfolds, director Joe Dressel maintains a peculiar tension that keeps the proceedings engaging even as he hits many of the expected notes. Michael P. Nelson‘s photography masterfully captures the crisp foreboding of a Twin Cities autumn, and the leads share an offbeat chemistry that stays just shy of too quirky. While the film’s low budget sometimes shows, the end result is a friendly, funny dual character sketch infused with just the right amount of Minnesota gloom. —Ira Brooker

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