Review: Lonesome Jim

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Steve Buscemi built his enviable career as a character actor playing an assortment of oddballs, managing in the process to steal scene after scene from competent colleagues in everything from Fargo to Ghost World to Mr. Deeds to The Island. With Lonesome Jim, Steve steps behind the camera to direct a movie filled with folks every bit as quirky as the ones he’s personally portrayed onscreen.

This dysfunctional family drama stars Casey Affleck as Jim, a Prodigal Son returning home to Indiana after failing to make it as a writer in New York. He moves back in with his plastic, Stepford Wife of a mother (Mary Kay Place), his addlepated father (Seymour Cassel), and his suicidal brother (Kevin Corrigan).

The 27 year-old loser takes a job at his parents’ factory, where he indulges a bad habit while hanging-out with his drug-addicted, co-worker cousin (Mark Boone Junior). After hours, he starts dating Anika (Liv Tyler), a single-mom with a heart of gold (“I like to help people!�) he picks up in a bar.

Emphasizing character development over plot, Lonesome Jim fills the screen with an array of initially absorbing individuals, but fails to place them in any optimistic scenarios. For instance, after Tim has already tried to do himself in by crashing his car into a tree, Jim confesses that he had cruelly agreed with his emotionally-fragile sibling that life is pointless.

If the idea, here, is simply to suggest that a wave of existential dread is sweeping across the heartland, then I suppose Lonesome Jim has effectively conveyed its filmmaker’s pessimistic point-of-view. The upshot is a depressing illustration of how even Middle America has ended up marginalized and rudderless in the wake of outsourcing, downsizing and globalization.

Not exactly what you’d call a feel-good flick.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and drug references.
Running time: 91 minutes
Studio: IFC Films

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