With economic times becoming increasingly difficult many young people find themselves returning to the parental home that only a few years prior they sought to flee. What was once a land of opportunity has become a harsh place where making a success of your life is all but impossible. It is almost natural that film makers, especially those of the independent ilk, would use such despair has a theme for their stories. Film has always done this, reflecting the prevalent attitude of the nation. In the forties and fifties there were many films that mirrored the post war optimism. In the sixties it was the drug counter culture that was common place in the theaters. Now, the tensions that each us face on a daily basis is held up to the scrutiny of the camera. One of the latest of this trend comes to us in the form of ĎLonesome Jimí a film directed by famed actor Steve Buscemi.
As the film starts Jim (Casey Affleck) had just given up his dream of being a writer. He lionized Ernest Hemmingway, perhaps not the life one should emulate or aspire to. Jim had been trying to write while supporting himself as a part time dog walker. Finally the despair overtakes him and he seeks refuge by returning to his parentís home in Indiana. His parents, Don (Seymour Cassel) and Sally (Mary Kay Place) are not exactly Ozzie and Harriet. Although it is the dead of winter the Christmas lights decorations still are hung. The parents are almost on cruise control, going through the paces of married life. Also returning to the childhood home is Jimís brother Tim (Kevin Corrigan). Tim has just gone through a bitter divorce and now is living with the folks along with his two daughters. Jim may have come back home for emotional security but finds the people he needs for support are more messed up then he is. Tim is so despondent that he crashes his car into a tree. While Tim does survive Jim has to take over his brotherís couching duties for a girlís basketball team that is accustomed to their last place status. During the day Jim finds work that is less than rewarding at his family owned ladder manufacturing business. There Jim meets his cousin Stacey (Mark Boone Junior), better known by his very apt nick name, Evil. Against his better judgment Jim is drawn into Evilís world of drug dealing and general malcontent activities. Typical of Evilís world view is his comments on marriage. He finds prostitutes are better than wives since they are cheaper to support. While wasting time at a local gin mill Jim meets an off duty nurse, Anika (Liv Tyler) and shortly afterwards finds the two of them in bed together. The encounter is far from satisfying for either of them. Jim discovers that premature ejaculation is a reality and five seconds is not good for either party. It is not difficult to see why Jim has such problems with women. While taking a bath his mother comes into to make sure the bath water is the right temperature. Jim is beset with more problems than he sought to escape by coming home.
This is a beautifully crafted film that may be dark and despondent but still invokes a deep emotional response in the audience. In his 27 year of life Jim always felt that he could live his dream and become a writer. When life in New York City shows him that dreams more often than not donít come true he does what seems so natural to us, return to the safety net of home. His parents are something right out of a Freudian textbook. The father is overly demanding while the mother wants to out do Martha Stewart. For Don the family business is all important, more so than the love and respect of his sons. Sally just has not accepted the fact that her little boys have grown up and need to relate to her on an adult level. Tim is so stricken with self doubts that his attempt at suicide is the ultimate in passive-aggressive behavior. While most of Jimís family is dysfunctional Evil is a piece of work. He is truly despicable especially when he frames Sally for a drug bust. Sally is so overly optimistic that when she is finally released from jail she gleefully announces that she is making a cobbler for the nice girls she met in lock up. Jim is forced to face the dark side of reality while dear old mom has the rose colored glasses surgically implanted. Jim has always lived in the shadow of his older brother and now when he comes home for a nervous breakdown his brother beats him to it.
Unlike many siblings of famous actors Casey Affleck has the talent to have made it without the well known surname. While his brother usually plays the dashing hero Casey has made a livelihood out of more casual characters. Here he gets a chance to demonstrate that he has the ability to handle more realistic and darker parts. Affleck gives Jim a realism that jumps off the screen. While no on in the audience wants to be him we can certainly understand how he is reacting to his circumstances. Mary Kay Place seems to have revisited her role from the cult classic television series ĎMary Hartman, Mary Hartmaní. She has a natural comedy sense that provides the right counter point to this dark film. Seymour Cassel is the kind of actor that you have seen in so many films but you most likely donít know his name. In his long career his appearance in a film is sure to bring a great performance. Liv Tyler is the source of brightness in this film. She is able to take her role and add empathy to it. It looks like she has achieve the dreasm of so many young girls and has now had bother Affleck brothers, on screen that is.
There is an old joke that all actors want to direct and all directors want to act. Usually when a cross over happens the results leave something to be desired. In the case of Steve Buscemi he manages to excel on both sides of the camera. He has made a successful career out of being a character actor. Typically, he plays the joker in a rough crowd, the one responsible to defuse tense situations with his wry humor. He has taken his character actor work as a training ground for his understanding of the darker side of the human experience. As a director he plunges into the foibles of regular people. Like is work, ĎTrees Loungeí this film has a dim view of happiness. Buscemi is extremely talented as a director. He paces the film perfectly, not letting the audience become distract or bored. He gives us a film that mirrors our deepest fears in a humorous fashion. He has done more with a $500,000 budget and a digital camera than most directors can do with five times the cash and equipment.
Genius Products in cooperation with the Independent Film Channel has been building a reputation of bringing to DVD some of the films you may not know but certainly will be glad youíve seen. The video is presented in 1.85:1 non anamorphic video was done entirely with a digital camera. This gives almost a home movie feel to the video that works well with the subject matter. The Dolby stereo audio also gives a more intimate feel. The commentary with Buscemi and writer James C. Strouse is a mini class in film making. Their comments are both informative and entertaining. When you tire of those loud blockbusters that shake the house sit back and enjoy something of quality and substance.