Lonesome Jim Review
By Shawn McKenzie 04/09/2006
Indie actor Steve Buscemi is such a funny, cool guy. Why does he want to direct these depressing comedies, like his latest one…Lonesome Jim?
Jim Roush (Casey Affleck) is a persistently sad aspiring 27-year-old novelist who has failed to make his mark in New York City after two years, and has supported himself lately as a dog walker. He decides to return home to his parents’ home in Goshen, Indiana. Jim’s parents, Don (Seymour Cassel) and Sally (Mary Kay Place), run Ladder Inc., a local ladder factory. While his mom is happy to see her “pretty boy” back home, his dad is indifferent. His older brother Tim (Kevin Corrigan) is also living at home. He has shared custody of his two daughters, Rachel and Sarah (Rachel and Sarah Strouse), with his ex-wife, and he is also depressed because of his divorce and the fact that he was fired from the local police force. He once had aspirations of joining the CIA, but now he works in a lumberyard and at Ladder Inc. Jim hangs up pictures of Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and an obscure author named Breece D’J Pancake…all writers who were suicidal. One night, Jim decides to go to a local bar, where he ends up having a one-night stand with an attractive pediatric nurse named Anika (Liv Tyler.) She is a single mother raising a 9-year-old son named Ben (Jack Rovello.) Tim coaches his daughters’ basketball team…a team that hasn’t made a single shot in 14 games…and Jim makes it worse by telling his brother that the loser divorcee’s life sucks worse than his own. Tim decides to drive into a tree in an attempt to kill himself, but he manages just to go into a coma. Jim ends up seeing Anika again at the hospital where Tim is staying and she works at. Jim and Anika start seeing each other, though this time it is with the presence of Ben. Since Tim is in the hospital, Jim’s parents talk him into taking on some of his brother’s responsibilities, including working at the ladder factory and coaching the basketball team. Jim never wanted to work at the factory, but he gets along with his Uncle Stacy (Mark Boone Junior), who prefers to use the nickname “Evil.” Evil deals drugs on the job, and he shares his stash with Jim. Jim agrees to open a checking account for Evil in his own name, and the biker druggie ends up implicating his sister Sally in a drug ring (Evil had been shipping drugs from Sally’s side snack bar FedEx account, which led to her arrest.) Meanwhile, Tim is recuperating at home (he has woken up from his coma), and Anika seems to be spending an awful lot of time with him. Jim has to decide what to be happy about in his life, and it might just be with Anika.
While the movie is funny, Buscemi takes James C. Strouse’s script and turns it into a dreary affair. Strouse is a native of Goshen, and his parents’ house doubled as the Rouses’ house (the Strouse girls are his real nieces.) You could say that this movie is autobiographical, with Affleck’s character standing in for Strouse. Combine that with Affleck’s monotone performance, you would be hard pressed to even consider this a comedy. Maybe both Buscemi and Strouse are just depressed, and they want everyone to share in their misery. I thought that Buscemi’s directorial debut, 1996’s Trees Lounge, was a little better, but that flick was a downer as well.
There are a couple of highlights though. Boone Junior, who also appeared in Buscemi’s Lounge and his follow-up, 2000’s Animal Factory, is memorable and amusing as the unscrupulous uncle. Rovello comes from an increasing number of child actors that sometimes outshine their adult costars.
Lonesome Jim is a blasé affair at best. While it has some decent performances (except for Affleck), it’s not worth driving to your local indie theater to check it out. Many people, including me, like Buscemi, but I think that they will find it a lonely experience to check out one of his directorial efforts.
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