Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lonesome Jim -- depressing outlook on life

This low-budget ($500,000) independent film is one of the reasons many people don't watch indie movies -- many of them are simply awful. And Lonesome Jim really is that bad. At 91 minutes, it is about 90 minutes too long. There are a few good lines, but for the most part it is simply depressing.

Steve Buscemi, the wonderful bug-eyed character actor who has appeared in dozens of movies even some great ones like Pulp Fiction and Fargo, directed this 2005 loser. Casey Affleck stars as 27 year-old Jim, a deadbeat dog-walker who moves home to his parents from New York. So great in the Assassination of Jesse James and stellar in Gone, Baby Gone he is positively monotonic here.

His family is semi-dysfunctional. Brother Tim is another loser, divorced with two kids, he holds a minimum wage job. Dad thinks both sons should be working for the family manufacturing firm. And mom is an overprotective mother, who does everything for her sons. When she walks in on Jim taking a bath to give him a towel and a hug, we realize she has not let her sons grow up.

The storyline has Jim meet nurse Anika (Liv Tyler), and after a one-night stand, starts to date her. She is upbeat, with a positive outlook on life, despite being a whiskey-drinking single-mom. At one point Jim says to Anika, "There's so many fun and cheery people in the world. Don't you think you'd be better off with one of them? Someone more like yourself?" To which Anika replies, "You think I'm fun and cheery?" She makes lemonade out of the lemon that Jim is.

Lonesome Jim takes us through various circumstances, including Tim unsuccessfully attempting suicide after being goaded into it by Jim, to mom being arrested for allegedly dealing drugs from the factory. Through it all, almost to the very end Jim remains down while mom remains up. Only at the end does Jim change, a sudden uncharacteristic character arc toward the positive.

At first Jim's mom seems so fake, so artificially cheerful. But then we realize this is the point of the movie. Life can be depressing. We do get bad breaks. But our attitude is our choice. Both Anika and mom display this in different levels. This is an important lesson, but we need not waste 91 minutes watching this movie to learn it. Choose to be upbeat. Choose to be positive. Choose to take joy in life instead of chronic despair. Choose to avoid Lonesome Jim!

Copyright 2008, Martin Baggs

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