Lonesome Jim (2005) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably R for sexuality and language
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Casey Affleck, Liv Tyler, Mary Kay Place, Seymour Cassel, Kevin Corrigan, Mark Boone Junior, Jack Rovello, Rachel Strouse, Sarah Strouse
Director: Steve Buscemi
Screenplay: James C. Strouse
Buscemi (Trees Lounge, Animal Factory) returns to the directors chair for another quirky, lackadaisical comedy-drama in Lonesome Jim, a slow-starting but ultimately rewarding film about the fact that, when all seems down and hopeless, sometimes you can find meaning and happiness in the things you usually take for granted.
It's a depressing world for the inhabitants of the story. Jim (Affleck, Ocean's Twelve) mopes around aimlessly, his brother Tim (Corrigan, Slums of Beverly Hills) is suicidal, his mother (Place, Sweet Home Alabama) puts on her best face despite it all, his father (Cassel, The Life Aquatic) always finds something to gripe at, and his uncle Evil (Boone Junior, Batman Begins) spends all his days in a state of perpetual high. Without much going for him, 27-year old Jim has returned to his childhood Indiana home for a stay, not knowing what he wants to do in life, even though he knows that living like this isn't really going to help him. It all seems so meaningless, until one day, a single nurse named Anika (Tyler, Jersey Girl) enters his life, along with her precocious young son (Rovello, The Hours), causing Jim to reflect on the nature of his life and what he holds dear.
There have been similar films about young men traveling home to find themselves of late, perhaps most successfully in a similarly themed vehicle, Garden State, but Buscemi's knack for drawing out well-rounded eccentric characters that are believable allows Jim to work more often than not. It's also darker than most, with a central character that is mostly unlikable, at least at first, until you glean that much of his behavior is a defense mechanism meant to try to make himself feel a little better by trying to lower everyone else down with caustic words.
The cast is rich with good character actors, most of whom play the funniest lines with a droll delivery and poker-faced ambivalence, which also lends this independent film a good deal of zany charm. It's a familiar type of story, and it is deliberately aimless for long spells, which may frustrate viewers into not sticking with it. To those that may begin to feel this way, my advice is to be patient, as things do begin to gel as the story winds along, with an ending that is uplifting without being overly manipulative or saccharine.
©2005 Vince Leo