Lonesome Jim

Lonesome Jim

2006, R, 91 min. Directed by Steve Buscemi. Starring Casey Affleck, Liv Tyler, Mary Kay Place, Seymour Cassel, Kevin Corrigan, Jack Rovello, Rachel Strouse, Sarah Strouse.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 28, 2006

The unforgettable character actor Steve Buscemi has been developing a solid sideline career for himself as a director during the last decade. Lonesome Jim, his third feature film, is a portrait of a sad-sack loser and calls to mind his first film Trees Lounge, in which he also played the chief loser. In Lonesome Jim he doesn’t act, and instead directs a dream-come-true indie cast in this minimalist comedy with a sly sense of humor that isn’t always readily apparent. Despite its charms, Lonesome Jim never feels fully formed. Initially, the characters are presented intriguingly, but as the film progresses they are not, and the whole thing starts to grow stagnant. The film conveys as strong a sense of its suburban Indiana locale as Trees Lounge does of its titular neighborhood bar or Buscemi’s other film Animal Factory does of its prison setting. The screenplay is the first by James C. Strouse, and despite it being clear the themes and archetypes that attracted Buscemi to the story, the finished film features vaguely defined characters that never become fully believable. It begins as 27-year-old Jim (Affleck) stumbles off the bus and creaks toward his parents’ home, returning to the nest penniless and broken-down after failing to make it in the big world as a writer. (Curiously, though this is his stated ambition, he never seems to do any actual work.) His excessively cheerful mom (Place) and dour dad (Cassel) take him back, and for a time he at least feels superior to his brother Tim (Corrigan) – a divorced, suicidal father of two – who also lives with their parents. “I’m a fuck-up, but you’re a goddamn tragedy,” says Jim to his sibling before Tim deliberately crashes his car into a tree, surviving yet nevertheless relegated to a full body cast for the rest of the picture. Nurse Anika (Tyler) enters the scene and helps set up the possibility for Jim to finally experience love and an adult relationship. For the time being, he has taken over coaching his nieces’ pathetic basketball team and tries to be a good sport toward Anika’s young son Ben. He also begins working at his parents’ ladder factory, where he comes into contact with his uncle Evil (Mark Boone Junior, who almost steals the whole show as an outsized character amid a story of smaller personalities), who is dealing drugs from the factory floor. Tyler, for her part, is playing another variation on the cuddly caregiver she played in Jersey Girl with Casey Affleck’s big brother Ben. Lonesome Jim is an interesting but unsuccessful study, although viewers should be cautioned about falling victim to its malaise.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Steve Buscemi
Six Degrees of Steve Buscemi
Six Degrees of Steve Buscemi
Steve Buscemi: actor, filmmaker, dad

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 18, 2008

More Steve Buscemi Films
Steve Buscemi directs and co-stars in this film with Sienna Miller as the pair play out an emotionally charged pas de deux.

Josh Rosenblatt, Sept. 7, 2007

Trees Lounge
Buscemi wrote, directed, and stars in this penetrating movie about a hopeless alcoholic who nevertheless hopes for something more out of life. The attentions of a lusty 17-year-old (Sevigny) is the last thing this guy needs.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Oct. 25, 1996

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Pika pika pika? Pika pika pika pika pika pika pika.

May 10, 2019

Period drama keeps the techniques of Oscar winner Son of Saul but loses the emotional weight

April 26, 2019


Lonesome Jim, Steve Buscemi, Casey Affleck, Liv Tyler, Mary Kay Place, Seymour Cassel, Kevin Corrigan, Jack Rovello, Rachel Strouse, Sarah Strouse

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle