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Sam Henry Kass
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Things aren't going so well for Tommy Basilio. He lost his job because he "borrowed" money from the register, his girlfriend left him for his boss and is now pregnant, and he can't find work because of the incident. His life revolves around the Trees Lounge, a neighborhood bar over which he lives, full of the colorful eccentrics one finds in such places, like the estranged husband, or the old boozer drinking himself to death. He drunkenly wanders through his life, still in love with his ex, desperate for some sort of meaning beyond the bar, some sort of meaning to his life. Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
During the opening credits, an old man at the bar orders a large glass of liquor, filled with ice. In the next shot, there's no ice in the glass. However, this is a deliberate technique by the director to indicate the passing of time at Trees Lounge. See more »
If I win, I get to take you home. If you win, you can go home with me.
What kind of deal is that, huh? I don't know it doesn't make sense to me.
It's a good deal. It's a good deal for me!
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For once (at last) extremes inform the middle, the down-and-out the up-and-in, Long Island blue collar barflies the rest of us so-called well-adjusted's. This demands the proper mix of compassion and dispassion, which for Buscemi, as for others similarly gifted, leads to an almost inseparable mix of comedy and pathos: up is down, down is up.
Buscemi plays himself, or what he probably would have been had he not found his talent in movie making, namely, a "loser" trapped in a downward spiral of unemployment, drugs, alcohol, and loneliness, familiar ingredients of endless movies, TV docudramas, talk shows, and news, all humbuggery and false preaching; so familiar, in fact, as to pose an American fixation, something we see so much of that we no longer see at all.
He's not afraid to let things get ugly, really ugly, down right squalid. An unemployed, unemployable car mechanic ends up by default driving an ice cream truck through the sun-drenched tree-lined streets of suburbia, a peculiarly American version of hell. Strange to say, the whole mess is uplifting and absurd; Buscemi loves his characters, warts and all; he warms us to them with a wealth of detail, emerging us in a whole crowd of people, complete with its own history and past, each member whole and completely formed, with hardly a trace of exaggeration or artifact, a false note or cliche.
Because more is at stake--the "American dream"--this is a better movie than Buscemi's i Living in Oblivion (1995), which was about the trials and tribulations of making an independent film on a shoe-string. Because both films are centered on the social life of a bar, comparison to Barbet Schroeder's i Barfly is inviting; but the latter's hero is a diamond in the rough, while the one here is just a schmegegge.
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