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Lonesome Jim
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Liv Tyler once again gives unrealistic hopes to mopes everywhere"
3 stars

In the new low-key indie comedy-drama “Lonesome Jim,” Liv Tyler gets to play an impossibly gorgeous (and improbably unattached) and sweet-natured young woman who winds up shocking an emotionally retarded dope out of his doldrums with her charm and life-affirming good nature. For her, this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch because she has played virtually the same role in such films as “Heavy,” “Stealing Beauty,” “Inventing the Abbotts,” “Jersey Girl” and “Armageddon.”

This time around, she plays single mother Anika and her human rehab project this time around is Jim (Casey Affleck), a failed writer who returns from New York to his rural Indiana hometown to move back in with his equally depressing family, a group consisting of a suicidal brother (Kevin Corrigan), a grumpy father (Seymour Cassel) and a mother (Mary Kay Place) who is so cheerfully oblivious to everything around her that it hardly fazes her when she is mistakenly thrown in jail on a drug charge. For the most part, Jim prefers to mope around while cultivating his precious sense of ennui (not-so-subtly suggested by the collage of legendarily depressed authors he keeps on his bedroom wall as some kind of totem)–so much so that when he winds up taking over his brother’s coaching duties for a kids basketball team, one person observing a practice rightfully mentions that it doesn’t even look like the children are all playing the same sport. One night, Jim and Anika meet in a bar one night and have a quickie in a spare bed in the hospital where she works. Inexplicably, he immediately decides to ignore her–apparently his street cred as a mope would be ruined with someone like her on his arm. Just as inexplicably, she goes to extraordinary lengths to insinuate herself into his life–either she suffers from Florence Nightengale syndrome or some other equally insidious malady.

The film was directed by Steve Buscemi and closely resembles his previous effort “Trees Lounge” in the way that it looks at the lives of some sad sacks with pathos, understanding and not a small bit of dry humor. The problem this time is that Affleck is such a withdrawn blank in the central role that it becomes virtually impossible to care about him or to understand why Tyler’s character devotes so much time to him. I’m not saying that you can’t have a sad sack at the center of your movie–Buscemi did that quite well in “Trees Lounge”–but he needs to at least be an interesting sad sack or you are stuck with a vacuum at the center of the film, as we are here. What life the film has is almost entirely due to the sweet and effective performance by Tyler. A gorgeous blank who seemed to be cast by directors too entranced with her beauty to know what to do with her early on in her career, she has clearly grown as an actress over the years and she is by far the best thing on display here.

However, the rest of “Lonesome Jim” is just a little too draggy and morose to fully recommend as a full-price ticket purchase to anyone other than hardcore fans of Tyler or Buscemi. It has its modest charms here and there is even the occasional flash of genuine wit–just not enough to quite push the film over the top. This is one of those titles that will probably come off better on DVD or cable, where the smaller scale and reduced expectations will make its modest charms seem a little more impressive by comparison.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11223&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/31/06 00:06:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston. For more in the 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2006 Florida Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/19/07 Phil M. Aficionado An extra star for Liv; yes, Peter, I am a hardcore fan. Big-time "downer" flick; not great. 4 stars
11/25/06 Minotaur Felt too much like garden state, but Evil was funny 3 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Generally amiable pout of a movie, although not too original, has pleasant enough ensemble. 3 stars
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  24-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 29-Aug-2006



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