- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006

The title character in “Lonesome Jim” needs the love of a good woman to chase away his blues.

Audiences may feel like popping Prozac after spending a few minutes with Jim, but another darkly comic morsel always comes our way to artificially lift our mood.

With “Lonesome Jim,” eccentric character actor Steve Buscemi proves once more what a steady hand he brings to his side projects, from the underrated “Trees Lounge” (1996) to his occasional work directing “The Sopranos.”

Mr. Buscemi, the director, has a knack for locating the humanity in deeply troubled souls. It’s as if those sad-sack eyes of his can see deeper into the human condition than most filmmakers can.

The troubled Jim (Casey Affleck, the slightly more expressive one of the acting Afflecks) returns home after failing to make it in New York City. His mother (Mary Kay Place) welcomes him without judgment, while his father (Seymour Cassel) eyes him more warily. The two already have one adult son living at home. Tim (Kevin Corrigan) is a hapless father of two whose FBI dreams have long since fizzled.

The brothers’ reunion is anything but heartwarming. Tim would rather be coddled by their parents alone without sharing their overprotective bubble. Jim, ever the pessimist, slices through Tim’s pathetic facade like a surgeon.

Their exchanges spark Tim’s suicide-by-car attempt. He fails, naturally, leaving Jim to step into his shoes. That means coaching his nieces’ basketball squad — a gaggle of girls who have yet to sink a basket. He also takes Tim’s place at the family factory.

It’s only fitting that Jim’s family would have an Uncle Evil (Mark Boone Junior), a louse who uses the factory to sell marijuana. He also prefers hookers to girlfriends because they’re “cheaper,” and in his spare time, he collects random skulls.

Still, Jim needs someone with whom to commiserate, and Evil’s pot makes the trouble fade away, albeit momentarily.

The lone ray of goodness in Jim’s life beams forth from a single mother (Liv Tyler, the go-to girl for wounded but beautiful love interests).

Their romance is anything but easy. She has a son from a deadbeat ex, and Jim is too consumed with self-pity to realize what a good woman he has stumbled upon.

He’s resigned to floating on a bed of pot smoke and indifference. Then Evil’s drug ring attracts the police. Suddenly, Jim’s family needs him, but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll rise to the occasion or sink further into despair.

James C. Strouse’s sober script doesn’t make it easy to root for Jim. The character doesn’t appreciate his parents’ generosity, and in one scene, Jim spurns his mother’s love with devastating insensitivity.

If he’s to be redeemed, it’ll take more than a few Dr. Phil slogans to do the trick.

“Lonesome Jim” has every right to be a downer, almost a cliche of the “sensitive” indie film.

Nevertheless, “Jim” offers its own offbeat rewards, as does following Mr. Buscemi wherever his muse takes him.


TITLE: “Lonesome Jim”

RATING: R (Sexual situations, drug use, adult language and mature themes)

CREDITS: Directed and produced by Steve Buscemi. Written by James C. Strouse.

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.lonesomejim-film.com/


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