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Lonesome Jim (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Lonesome Jim


Starring Casey Affleck, Liv Tyler, Mary Kay Place, Kevin Corrigan, Mark Boone Junior, Seymour Cassel, Jack Rovello, Rachel Strouse, Sarah Strouse, Jake La Botz, Jude Barger, Pam Angell, Michael Buscemi, Don Strouse and Rick Duplissie.

Screenplay by James C. Strouse.

Directed by Steve Buscemi.

Distributed by IFC Films. 91 minutes. Rated R.

As an actor, Steve Buscemi has a sort of beaten-down, desperate charm. He has a generally nice, but just slightly twisted loser mentality – seeing the beauty in surviving despite hardships and failure.

He has this same quality now that he is starting to spend more time as a director than an actor. He has been behind some interesting dramatic moments behind the camera – from the dead-end desperation of Trees Lounge to the prison horror of Animal Factory to some of the best episodes of TV’s The Sopranos.

Lonesome Jim is his first romantic comedy. Although it is never really exactly what you could call funny, it does have an amiable shaggy dog charm. You may not laugh out loud anywhere in the movie, but you will smile through much of it.

Casey Affleck plays Jim, a wannabe writer who has to move back to small town America after an unproductive couple of years in New York, which have left him unemployed, broke and despondent. In desperation he has to take a bus to his old hometown and move in with his parents.

Jim wallows in his misery; in his room he has a shrine to great authors who have committed suicide. He hates his home and takes his pathos out on those around him, being casually cruel to his parents and making an offhand remark which may have even driven his brother to attempt suicide. (In all fairness, with the exception of the mother, all of the members of the family are constantly taking shots at each other.)

Sounds funny, so far, right?

Jim loves and at the same time despises his mother. Mary Kay Place wonderfully plays the role with an eternal, bruised perkiness. No matter how many harsh roadblocks life places in front of her – and believe me, she takes a lot – she just quietly regroups and tries to find the most positive spin she possibly can on them.

Jim finally finds a break in his clouds when a few things happen. When the brother has his “accident,” Jim is forced to take over the coaching of his nieces’ basketball team – an extraordinarily incompetent team which doesn’t even get a single basket until their last game. At first, Jim takes the responsibility loosely, but eventually he starts to relate to their enthusiastic attempts in the face of totally ineptitude. He also starts working in his family’s factory, watching as his uncle uses the place as a drug store. When this brings legal problems for his parents, he starts to realize their importance in his life.

He also falls in love with a beautiful nurse (Liv Tyler) with whom he had a disastrous one-night stand with before finding out she works in the hospital his brother ends up in. As they get to know each other he also learns to love her young son and sees them as a possible salvation. Tyler is starting to get typecast as a beautiful and optimistic pixie who brings manic-depressive guys out of their lifelong funks (see also: Jersey Girl, Inventing the Abbotts, even The Lord of the Rings) – but I do have to admit that she is good at the role.

Lonesome Jim takes its sweet old time getting to its somewhat inevitable conclusion, but it has an individual quirky eye and ear that makes the ride go by quickly and pleasantly. (9/06)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2006 All rights reserved. Posted: September 9, 2006.

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