This just in: growing up still sucks. Few would know that better than Jim (Casey Affleck), who is, as Steve Buscemi's latest directorial effort Lonesome Jim opens, escaping a meager existence in Manhattan walking dogs and pulling part-time shifts at Applebee's for the bucolic drudgery of his parents' home in Indiana. At 27, Jim hasn't accomplished much, but then, neither has his older brother Tim (Kevin Corrigan), who shares custody of his two daughters and also lives with his parents – the emotionally overbearing Sally (Mary Kay Place) and the gruff, distant Don (Seymour Cassel). Weighed down by a ceaseless stream of familial obligations, Jim nevertheless takes tentative steps towards maturity.
Lonesome Jim is a melancholy character study, watching as a young man shuffles from indifference to a semblance of understanding – James C. Strouse's script doesn't aim for any universe-altering truths, electing instead to hold people at arm's length, observing them in their own worlds. Affleck imbues Jim with a likability, despite the character's tendency towards jerkiness in the opening minutes; Liv Tyler, whose subtle turn as Anika lends the film a wonderful warmth, excels here, as does the rest of Buscemi's well-chosen cast: Place, Corrigan and Cassel all contribute strong work, as does Mark Boone Junior, serving as the face of benign, blood-related Evil.
Films that focus on the mechanics of small-town life are a dime a dozen in the realm of independent films, with many greatly overshooting the mark or falling apart – Lonesome Jim is a late-blooming coming-of-age tale fused with an elegiac look at the roots which hold us in place and the ties that bind us to our families, for better or worse. Growing up isn't fun or easy, but fortunate are those who don't have to do it alone. The DVD
Filmed with a Panasonic DV camera, it's little surprise that Lonesome Jim sports a wildly inconsistent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer – razor sharp and clean in certain scenes, splotchy, grainy and fuzzy in others, Phil Parmet's evocative cinematography is rendered as a hit-or-miss grab bag of quality that might have some viewers itching to re-calibrate their monitors. The Audio:
Curiously, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn't quite up to par either – I had to crank the volume significantly to hear the dialogue and even then, if weren't for the optional English subtitles, I would've still had a little trouble deciphering what was being said. It's a very front-heavy mix with the occasional bit of score filtering in. The Extras:
Scant but worthy supplements: Buscemi and Strouse sit for an informative, affectionate commentary track, delving into the bare-bones production, as well as other creative aspects. A brief, six-minute making-of featurette completes the disc. Final Thoughts:
Lonesome Jim is a late-blooming coming-of-age tale fused with an elegiac look at the roots which hold us in place and the ties that bind us to our families, for better or worse. Growing up isn't fun or easy, but fortunate are those who don't have to do it alone. Aside from an iffy image, Steve Buscemi's low-key character study is a winner. Recommended.