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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Trees Lounge" is directed, written by and starring my favorite actor. Do I
even have to mention his name? It seems that even the least-buffiest of
film buffs knows who the terrific bad-toothed bug-eyed fellow from so many
films is. But, because I'd rather use his name than refer to him by his
facial features, I shall.
The man with the perfect comedic timing. The man who can play ruthless, cruel criminals (Fargo and Reservoir Dogs); nice, loving losers (Trees Lounge, Ghost World); and the man that can even save the worst of Adam Sandler movies from total hell (Mr. Deeds, Big Daddy).
As I said, Buscemi (great last name eh?) wrote, directed and starred in "Trees Lounge", the story of alcoholic Tommy Basilio (Buscemi), the kind of man that defines "loser". His girlfriend left him for his best friend (Anthony LaPaglia), who's no longer his best friend. His uncle (Seymour Cassle) just died, and the only way he can work is by taking over the town ice cream truck. Not only this, but he's constantly finding himself at Trees Lounge, the neighborhood bar, drinking more than he should.
"Trees Lounge" is an ensemble piece of only one. Buscemi's writing is amazing. The words flow so well, making this one of the few films that convinces you the characters are completely real. Every character has their own way, their own style of talking. Whether it's Mike's (Mark Boone Junior) lazy slurred speech or Debbie's (Chloe Sevigny) Gen-X type rebellious talk.
The directing is done quite well too. The whole feel of the film - even the shade of the screen - is a grayish, tragic one. He even uses some film tricks he seemed to have picked up from other directors he's worked with. The unique flashback/video sequence of one of Tommy's relative's parties is reminiscent of Tarantino. The fast paced scene where Tommy is assaulted by Debbie's father (Daniel Baldwin) reminds me of Robert Rodriguez.
And, of course, the acting. Everyone who's seen a few Buscemi films know that he can bring new (or more) life to a comedic, dramatic, ruthless or just plain weird role. In this, he blends them all together. Comedic - when he's trying to convince a cousin that his uncle loved him. Dramatic - when he's sadly telling his former girlfriend he can change. Ruthless - when he takes his former best friend's offer a little too far and buys an expensive gift. Weird - his hilarious impression of Marlon Brando from "On the Waterfront".
And, just as Buscemi blends his acting talents together he blends every aspect of filmmaking in his control to create a heartfelt dramatic comedy in "Trees Lounge", 8.5.
If John Cassavetes was alive, he'd have a copy of Trees Lounge in his video library. This is a story that is hard to tell, let alone find an audience. Although many can relate with the cast of lost souls hanging out at a bar most of the day, many will not admit to being somewhat connected to any of the characters. Filmed for less that 2 million, this independent, low budget, and somewhat of a masterpiece is brilliant as well as entertaining. Much of the cast has gone on to do other known films. Carol Kane, Mark Boone Junior Steve Buscemi, Bronson Dudley, Anthony LaPaglia and Steve's brother Michael Buscemi star in this Minnie and Moskowitz type story. Seymour Cassell and Mimi Rogers add their touch of magic to this story as well. A deep story with deep characters, this is a movie worth watching.
This semi-biographical tale centres around a down on his luck, yet charismatic bar fly, set on his way to self destruction. Buscemi'second self directed/penned feature is slower paced than some might expect. This in no way detracts from the overall brilliance and charm that trees lounge conveys. Tommy's character, while on the surface, demands both pity and sympathy. It's in his anti-heroic attributes ie. selfishness and callousness, that make the film so human and believable. American releases as passionate and warm as Trees Lounge do not come around as often anymore, with only The Station Agent coming close. So enjoy.
There are plenty of movies I can think of that I wished were a little (or a
lot) shorter. Trees Lounge however presents mme with one of the rare movies
that I wish were longer. I wanted this movie to keep going, I wanted to see
what else would happen to the characters. While the film doesn't entirely
paint the happy bar room existence that Barfly did it does make a pretty
accurate portrail of good portion of the drinkers culture. Every actor in
this movie hits just the right note especially Chloe Sevigny, who has never
looked more fetching. One of those silly Baldwins even turns in a fine
performance. Steve Buscemi wrote and directed this movie and I shall be
rather intrested in any subsequent work he does in either field.
10 out of 10.
Whenever one thinks of Steve Buscemi the actor, one probably thinks of the line about his character in FARGO, where a girl says, "Well, he was funny looking...more than most people, even." That has more or less summed up the parts Buscemi has played throughout the years, way back to the mini-series of LONESOME DOVE. But he's got more range than that, as he showed in LIVING IN OBLIVION(1995), and this movie, which he also wrote and directed. The nice surprise is he also has the makings of a fine writer and director. There's no real plot here, which undoubtedly will throw some people(and has, if some of the comments are any indication), just observing a certain type of people(working-class and barflies) and how they live their lives. While it may drag at times, there's enough truth and detail to keep you interested. Buscemi also directs actors well; this is the film which convinced me Chloe Sevigny was for real. I understand Buscemi is making another film; I look forward to it.
Small town deadbeat Tommy, spends the majority of his time drinking at the
Trees Lounge and trying to find comfort with anything in a skirt. Meanwhile
his ex-best friend is with his ex-girlfriend who may or may not be carrying
Tommy's child. Tommy drifts day to day before finding himself a job and a
This was Buscemi's first attempt as director and is semi-autobiographical in it's plot. Plot, however is a poor way to describe this film's story. Rather it is an amusing character piece, following Tommy through his life. Tommy is likeable but is also selfish, clueless, aimless and friendless. We like him because he has a good loser-quality to him that brings part sympathy and part empathy. During the film he hurts many through his selfish actions and his life is consistently aimless and pointless. However it still manages to be interesting because of Tommy. Even when I didn't care about him the story had enough good support characters and goings on to keep me interested.
Buscemi as actor is just as good doing a weasely version of himself but managing to keep him just likeable enough to get by. It something about the way that Tommy clearly hurts himself all the way that makes it hard to dislike him. The support cast are all very good. Junior, Kane et al do well as the various barflies while LaPaglia, Bracco, Baldwin, Imperioli, Rogers and Jackson all deliver well on their various roles. Sevingy is very good again in another sexually laced child role but I'm glad she's not been typecast too much since Kids.
Overall this is plot light but is still interesting, amusing and enjoyable. Buscemi directs with a light touch and keeps everything light until the sombre final shot.
Watched this with some trepidation, having seen the absolutely
excellent trailer. So few movies live up to their trailers, especially
indies. Anxiety increased by having read Buscemi's fairly harrowing
account of making the film in one of those 'The Directors' books.
Shouldn't have worried. Great flick. Totally engrossing, especially to a *cough* former *cough* barfly like myself. Beautifully understated, funny, very sad, nicely paced and Buscemi very wisely NOT trying to dominate every scene, although he certainly dominates the movie.
Movie appears on first sight plot less but actually it isn't at all: Buscemi's search for a second chance to escape from the morass of his own making is riveting. Everyone involved seems to have had a good time and the beautifully relaxed performances are the reward. Only the two knucklehead goombahs fall below the otherwise uniformly excellent level.
A real treat, and thoroughly watchable-again able. My DVD was in TV format, which sucked, but otherwise the low budget doesn't really intrude.
Nearest movie to it I can think of offhand is KILLING OF A Chinese BOOKIE. Radically different subject matter but similar bittersweet texture.
A slightly, but only slightly, generous 9/10 from me.
Excellent film dealing with a group of unhappy people who drown their sorrows in booze, powder, and sex. The chief sorrowmeister, Tommy, was a pathetic loser who spent inordinate amounts of time swilling beer and shots in a shabby bar which boasted a temperamental barkeep, a postage stamp sized men's room, and one table. When not turning his liver into plywood Tommy halfheartedly attempts to find work as a mechanic but winds up driving his uncle's ice cream wagon and getting in over his head with a troubled teen on the verge of bolting from daddy's violent household. A sad picture for sure, but I couldn't help laughing out loud at some of these characters' antics. A very fine movie depicting a realistic looking slice of the ugly side of our human existence.
Just happened upon this channel hopping In the early hours saw Steve
Buscemi and wondered what's going on here? Not a lot as It seemed but
that's not the point. Just sit back - preferably with a lager and allow
Tree's Lounge to charm your trousers off.
Wonderfully subdued comedy showing that Buscemi Is not only a cult anti hero on screen but that he has much promise as a director. The characters stand out as they can be related to - everyone will recognise the Bill type regular permanently attached to the counter. Mark Boone's wife also as a seriously difficult woman who hasn't a clue what she really wants, stereotypically so. Tommy yes, Is a manchild aimlessly squandering his life away, for sure It Isn't a good role model to aspire to approaching middle age but hey that's his perogative.
This Is Steve's film and he's got charisma by the barrow full to make Tree's Lounge a real treat. That trick with the glasses will work once - provided your not too hammered practising. But It's Uncle Al who gets the best lines - "he loves your mothers", his excuse for his lecherous behaviour on the couch will bail a lot of people out of a lot of trouble.
This film Is very hard to track down, 90% of video shops I went to hadn't even heard of It and It's been on terrestrial Tele twice - once a week late- the reward Is well worth the effort.
Steve Buscemi has long been one of the premiere character actors in the
business; his resume reads like a veritable Who's Who of interesting,
complex characters who run the gamut from psycho hit-man to regular guy, all
of whom he has brought vividly to life in film after film. And whether or
not a particular project is a hit or a flop, Buscemi is always good, and can
always be counted upon to add that extra something to any given film, as he
has in `Trees Lounge,' an affecting drama he not only stars in, but with
which he makes his debut as a writer/director-- and an impressive debut it
Tommy Basilio (Buscemi) is an out-of-work mechanic who lives alone above a bar called Trees Lounge in Long Island, N.Y. He's more than a bit down on his luck; not only did he lose his job, but his pregnant girlfriend of eight years, Theresa (Elizabeth Bracco) recently dumped him for his former boss, Rob (Anthony LaPaglia). He wants to pick himself up and get his life back together, but he doesn't seem to know where to start, and the garages to which he's applied for work aren't exactly knocking his door down to hire him. So he gravitates to the Trees, where he can at least interact with others who seem to be in situations not entirely unlike his own, though at different stages and for different reasons. But they all have one thing in common-- they're people just trying to get through the day; they're trying to get through life. If they can only figure it all out.
With this film, Buscemi proves that he is more than just a talented actor, but rather a true artist in every sense of the word, with his chosen medium being film. He has an eye for detail which complements his insights into human nature and enables him to effectively translate his material to the screen. His characters are finely drawn and complex, and with each and every one he manages to successfully avoid the stereotypes to which a setting like this could easily lend itself (and no doubt would, in lesser hands). Even with the minor characters, he succinctly gives you enough of who they are that it allows you to see beneath the surface and know what makes them tick. And he does it imaginatively-- by filling a room with photographs or items that reflect who a certain person is, for example, or simply by training his camera on someone's face and allowing that extra beat that affords the viewer a telling glimpse of what's hiding behind a character's eyes. Buscemi has an innate sense of knowing how to convey what he's trying to say, and he does it in a million small and different ways that are subtle and incisive. Simply put, he knows what works-- including how to get what he wants out of his actors-- and he presents it all with a pace and timing that are right on the mark.
In Tommy, Buscemi creates a character to whom many will be able to relate and identify on any number of different levels. To say that Tommy is a `loser' would be too much of a simplification, because the character is too complex for that tag alone to be accurate. Tommy is blue-collar, down on his luck, and like so many people in real life, just can't seem to put it all together, can't figure out how `life' is supposed to work. And that's what Buscemi conveys so subtly and so well, and it's the key to the success of this character-- it's what makes Tommy believable and real. Obviously, Buscemi knew exactly what he wanted when he wrote this character, and he puts it across with a brilliant, memorable performance which also demonstrates his ability to star in and carry a movie on his own. Certainly, he has a wonderful supporting cast that gives him plenty of help, but few character actors have ever been able to step into a lead role with such facility and achieve the level of success Buscemi has here. And it's work that deserves to be acknowledged.
There are a number of notable supporting performances in this film, as well, beginning with Mark Boone Junior, who as Mike captures the essence of a guy who is successful, but a loser nonetheless; LaPaglia, who gives a solid performance as Rob; Bracco, with a performance that is introspectively revealing; Debi Mazar, who with very little screen time leaves an indelible impression (and her eyes are absolutely mesmerizing); Kevin Corrigan (another of the finest character actors around), as Matthew; and especially Chloe Sevigny, as Debbie, Theresa's mature-beyond-her-years, seventeen-year-old niece.
Rounding out the ensemble cast are Carol Kane (Connie), Bronson Dudley (Bill), Michael Buscemi (Steve's real life brother, playing Tommy's brother, Raymond), Suzanne Shepherd (Jackie), Rockets Redglare (Stan), Seymour Cassel (Uncle Al), Annette Arnold (Sandy), Michael Imperioli (George), Mimi Rogers (Patty), Daniel Baldwin (Jerry) and Charles Newmark (Puck). An involving story presented with a rich assortment of memorable, convincing characters, `Trees Lounge' is a drama about life-- about the things going on in your own neighborhood, or downtown or two streets over, no matter where you are in the world. Wherever people are, there are situations like the ones depicted in this film, problems that have to be solved and life that has to be lived. And that's what makes this film so good; it gives the audience a chance to connect with, or at least examine, things that anyone anywhere will be able to recognize. It may have taken a collaborative effort to make this one what it is, but in the end, it's Buscemi's film from start to finish, and a satisfying little gem of a movie it is. And that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 8/10.
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