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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Steve Buscemi|
scr James C Strouse
with Casey Affleck, Liv Tyler, Mary Kay Place, Seymour Cassel, Kevin Corrigan, Mark Boone Junior, Jack Rovello, Rachel Strouse, Sarah Strouse, Pam Grinstead-Angell, Doug Liechty Caskey, Don Strouse
release US 24.Mar.06,
Snap out of it: Tyler and Affleck
For a movie about a guy who does little but mope, this film is packed with amusing details, hilarious observations and quick-witted dialog. It's such a joy to watch that we often forget it's basically about people who have lost the will to live.
After failing in New York, Jim (Affleck) returns to rural Indiana like a dog with its tail between its legs. He's clearly shattered, and yet his cheerful mother (Place) and plain-talking father (Cassel) don't seem to notice. Even worse, his aimless brother (Corrigan) has a car "accident" and requires everyone's attention. The only people who seem to notice him are Anika (Tyler), a sexy young woman with a precocious son (Rovello), and Uncle Stacy (Boone), who goes by the name Evil, for obvious reasons.
It may sound like a quirk-filled comedy, but this is a warm, beautifully slow-paced slice of Midwestern life, examining everyday expectations and perspectives. Fortunately, Sprouse's script and Buscemi's direction are inventively and organically jammed with extremely funny sight gags and conversations. And the cast play it note-perfect, never drifting into spoof territory, keeping their characters as authentic as the story and setting.
Affleck nails the hangdog thing, drifting through scenes with barely any expression on his face and few words on his lips. But what he says cuts through most of the apparently fake happiness he sees around him. And the performance is strong enough that we can see behind his words to his real feelings. Tyler is similarly understated, beautiful and deeply likeable, reminiscent of her marvellous work in another micro-indie, James Mangold's Heavy. And Place delivers yet another razor-sharp performance that carefully walks the wire between honesty and parody. She's simply amazing--and so much like someone you know that it'll send chills up your spine.
This is a superb hidden gem along the lines of Pieces of April and The Station Agent, emotionally honest but thoroughly entertaining films that avoid cliches and obvious moralising. Even the moments of humiliation are tinged with pathos. And in the end, it's Jim's tiniest, most offhanded discoveries that are the most meaningful.
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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