Lonesome Jim

Lonesome Jim

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

Many films have been made about unlovable losers, but few are so upfront and honest about it as Lonesome Jim. Our eponymous lead (played by Casey Affleck) has been beaten by life, and, giving up his dream of working as a writer and living in the big city, has decided to return to his parents in Smalltown, Nowhereville (sorry, Indiana). From here his outlook seems unremittingly bleak, as further details of his crappy situation are fed in. Jim's older brother, Tim, who never left home, is an even bigger failure who attempts suicide. Their parents are well-meaning but horrible to live with. Their uncle uses the family business as a front for drug-running. The junior basketball team Tim coaches has never scored a basket, let alone won a game. And so on.

The first half-hour of the film makes for pretty uncomfortable viewing, following the downward spiral of an apathetic loner who does nothing to help his own situation. The discomfort is alleviated to an extent by the sort of dark humour one would expect from director Steve Buscemi, but it's not enough to carry the rest of the movie.

Copy picture

Fortunately, it doesn't have to. Enter Liv Tyler, who does her best with a role she's perhaps just a little too pretty for, as a nurse by the name of Anika. A couple of awkward dates later, Jim suddenly has something to invest in, something to care about other than himself. He's slow to realise this, of course, but eventually he matures to the point where he's worth actually caring about, more-or-less redeems himself with regard to his earlier obnoxious behaviour, and, uh, ends up back at square one. But with a better attitude, and in a relationship that's almost certainly doomed to failure.

The message, espoused in a pep-talk during a basketball game, is of the “it's not-the-winning-but-the-taking-part-that-counts” variety. Only after Jim finally takes this to heart himself does he begin taking steps to sort his own life out, and we find that perhaps he's not so unlovable after all.

Some excellent performances (notably from Affleck, Tyler and Mary Kay Place, who plays Jim's mother) and some gorgeous opening shots raise Lonesome Jim above average gentle-indie-dark-comedy standards, but its foot-dragging pace and rather trite script hold it back from the loftier heights. Watchable, enjoyable, and fairly charming, but nothing to get terribly excited about.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2008
Share this with others on...
Lonesome Jim packshot
Struggling to make it on his own, a young man moves back into his parents' house, with ensuing awkwardness.
Amazon link

Director: Steve Buscemi

Writer: James C. Strouse

Starring: Casey Affleck, Kevin Corrigan, Mary Kay Place, Seymour Cassel, Rachel Strouse, Sarah Strouse, Rick Duplissie, Liv Tyler

Year: 2005

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2008

Search database: