Trees Lounge
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Trees Lounge

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This movie is why I so enjoy independent films. Written and directed by it's star, Steve Buscemi. No big budget or special effects that mark the Hollywood blockbuster, this film, like an good Indy, depends on the story, it's characters and the direction. In every life there is a moment that affects the direction the rest of our life will take. Steve Buscemi looks at the path not taken in his life. He admits that this is how he might have ended up if not for his acting career. He lived in the area that this film was made, drove an ice cream truck along the same streets his character drives his beat up ice cream truck. It was a very personal film for Buscemi and it shows. The story follows Tommy, an ex-mechanic that lives over the local corner gin mill, the Trees Lounge. The characters that inhabit the bar and the surrounding neighborhood are the many are the type you may cross the street to avoid but the film draws you deeply into their lives. Others are just regular people, like those you run into everyday in the neighborhood. The bar is dark and smoky, owned by Connie (Carol Kane), a woman that serves the drinks and tries to keep the peace. She moves through the days and nights as if she is on autopilot. The bar seems to lack a certain life; it contains people lost for years. Even in the early morning with the regulars drinking away the windows seem to try to hold back the sunlight outside. Tommy is searching for what he has lost and drinks almost constantly to forget the pain of never having made anything of himself. The woman he loves, Theresa (Elizabeth Bracco) is married to his ex-boss Rob (Anthony LaPaglia) who fired Tommy after he stole $1,500. His former best friend's 17-year-old daughter becomes involved with Tommy and drives the conclusion of the film. The loneliness of the characters is palpable. It surrounds each scene in a quiet desperation. Most movies show how people can change, this one depicts how life can often trap people inside lives they just manage to survive.

The casting is wonderful, even down to the bit parts. The teen-age girl is wonderfully played by Indy star Chloe Sevigny. Her wide eyes capture you and hold you for a performance that shows that this young girl will be adding a lot to the movie industry. Sevigny can play the nave mixed with the worldly sa few actresses can. Since this film has come out she has continued to move from her independent film roots to full fledge Hollywood star. Carol Kane as Connie, the ever-present bartender caught in the lives of her patrons. Anthony laPaglia is the ex-boss, Daniel Baldwin as the girl's father both brings interest to their roles. The smaller parts are also cast with the best including Debi Mazur, Mimi Rogers and even Buscemi's real father. Like an accident you can't help but to look at this movie will draw you in and hold you their. The performance of Buscemi’s demonstrates how personal this project was to him. Know as an incredibly talented character actor in such films as Reservoir Dogs, Armageddon and Fargo, he certainly has what it takes to be on center stage. His lack of movie star looks does not detract from his roles it makes them. He is the everyday man, a person the audience can readily identify with and empathize with him. Many character actors have careers that lie just below the surface of our consciousness, with Buscemi, he brings a shine to everything he touches.

As a writer and director Buscemi really pleasantly surprised me. As mentioned here the writing is incredibly tight and well constructed. The words come from a deeply personal place in Buscemi’s heart, he opens his fears of how his life may have been to the audience. Even that concept of presenting an alternative biography is great. Here is a man that was alcohol dependent, on the way to being the definition of loser and if not for a few breaks could have been on the path he sets before Tommy. His direction shows that he paid attention to the great directors he has worked for. There are contrasts between the ever twilight bar and the bright scenes in the ice cream truck. Things like this show there is more to Tommy than most people can see, a desire to improve. The pacing of the film carries the viewer along almost at a drift. Each shot helps us understand the malaise of the characters. I hope he takes some time off for another stint in the director’s chair.

The DVD is basic but worthwhile. There is a commentary by Buscemi that explains even aspect of the filming process from writing to his direction to the reflections of his own life. The sound is only Prologic but very well done. The video is top notch and without defect. All in all a movie that is a must for independent film lovers and a good Indy to start with for those tired of the Hollywood assembly line movie. 

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