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3 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Lonesome Jim
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by Erik Childress

"Garden State: The Xtra-Lite Roadshow"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: It was just one year ago at Sundance that I wrote the following words in one of my reviews Ė ďA young man, disconcerted by life, returns homeÖto put back the pieces of his life.Ē Ironically, I had to use an ellipsis to make one minor omission in the plot, but here I was in 2005 with this non-high-concept again to simplify another project by an actor-turned-director. Lonesome Jim is most definitely Garden State Xtra-Lite, but Steve Buscemiís latest directorial effort has enough offbeat charm and laughs to hold your attention.

Jim (Casey Affleck) is disconcerted byÖoh wait, you know that part already. Why else a 27-year old go back home? But home he goes to a mom whoís glad to have him home (Mary Kay Place), a brother, Don, who resents the attention bestowed on baby Jim (Kevin Corrigan) and a father who only speaks up when he needs to (Seymour Cassel).

Jim is only home because he doesnít know what else to do. He certainly hasnít been as proactive as Don, who found time to have two kids, a divorce and poorly coach the local girls basketball team that looks its playing in an age class at least three years too old for them. Jim is so downtrodden he even suggests how heís amazed Don hasnít killed himself. That is before Don rams his car into a tree, landing him in bed for the rest of the story. This is not a family blessed with success.

Other than mom, the relative that shows Jim the most attention is the Uncle working at the family plant (Mark Boone Junior). Selling weed on the side with a credit history printed on red paper, Uncle Evil (yes, thatís what he tells Jim to call him), is that sheep that makes Jim look white by comparison.

But what is this just around the corner? Could it be a potential love interest for Jim? A chance meeting with a beautiful girl who is a Chatty Kathy compared to the almost legally mute Jim? Her name is Anika (Liv Tyler) and she may be no Natalie Portman but she sure as hell ainít Courtney Love either. Sheís enacts a one-night-stand with Jim after a bar encounter. Sheís also a nurse so dutifully predisposed to helping people, which Jim clearly needs a lot of.

If youíre seeking another deep character study with brilliant insights into the human condition of the Midwest, well, it would probably be best to just move there. Lonesome Jim certainly doesnít succeed in the dramatic department, but maybe it never intends to. Itís low-budget atmosphere and sullen expressions probably lend way to such thoughts, but I found it more of a comedy of those very manners than an examination of them.

The younger Affleck has never been much of the emoter, so the part of Jim with his dry delivery fits him like a glove. Tyler is perfectly charming and Corrigan is right at home playing a loser who doesnít exactly know it. As mom, Mary Kay Place is a particular hoot. Watching what she goes through and still maintain her sunny disposition is probably as hopeful a message we can grasp without questioning her sanity. Itís Mark Boone Junior who steals this movie though. Uncle Evil isnít very good at his little schemes and canít even be sure if he knows how to threaten correctly. MBJís final scene is a perfectly crafted moment of absurdist comedy.

Buscemi doesnít condemn these characters nor invite us to make fun of them, except maybe for Uncle Evil, so he keeps them from being too broad or too gloomy. We probably expect them to change because the laws of movies require it, but we would have been satisfied with just letting them be and going about their daily routine. It rings a little false for Jim to so quickly alter his rationale for chasing buses. Then again, he wasnít doing much anyway so whatís the difference? Lonesome Jim is not going to become a generationís anything the way Garden State is evolving, but itís a decent sidebar and thereís nothing wrong with visiting Lonesome Jim even if you donít want to live there.

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originally posted: 02/11/05 04:10:37
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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

1/20/07 Phil M. Aficionado An extra star for Liv; yes, Peter, I am a hardcore fan. Big-time "downer" flick; not great. 4 stars
11/26/06 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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