Evie Decker, a shy young woman, falls in love with pop star Drumstrings Casey after hearing his voice on the radio. Summoning the courage to pursue the singer, Evie starts to break out of her shell... Written by
Toni Kalem is a new voice that shows a lot of promise by undertaking to make this 1970 Anne Tyler's novel into a quirky film. "A Slipping down Life" was shelved after its 1999 debut at Sundance. The film was released last year and since it disappeared before we could see it, it was a surprise when it was shown on a cable channel recently. Ms. Kalem, who adapted the story got the blessing from Ms. Tyler; the finished product follows the original text in a great adaptation.
Evie, the lonely young woman living with her widower father, gets her entertainment through the radio. It's the early 1960s in a small town in North Carolina. The late night program Evie tunes to brings her perhaps the only satisfaction she gets all day long. Working in a children's amusement park, Evie doesn't seem to fit. Evie's only friend is the beautician Violet, who being overweight, is another misfit living in a small community.
The Decker household is dominated by Clotelia, the black maid who is the only one with any spunk. Mr. Decker is an aloof man who is more interested in listening to his short wave radio. His only complaint is about too much Spanish broadcasting.
The young woman discovers the songs of Drumstring Casey late at night. He becomes an obsession. Evie drags Violet to go watch this not too popular singer at a local hangout. Evie becomes completely taken by the music and the young man singing the songs she loves. As a token of her infatuation Evie cuts her forehead with the name YESAC, or CASEY spelled backward when she looks at herself in the mirror. Drum, as he wants to be called, resists Evie's attention at first, but eventually he comes to love her in his own fashion.
The role of Evie is played by Lili Taylor. This young actress is what make us care for Evie because we root for her happiness with Casey. She has a dreary existence living at home and basically staying by herself. Lili Taylor, one of the most versatile actresses working in films these days, makes a great impression on the viewer with her rendition of Evie.
Equally effective is Guy Pearce, an Australian actor, who makes Drumstring Casey come alive. It would appear to be the wrong casting, but in reality, Mr. Pearce looks a natural and the right choice for the role. His take on the singer offers another dimension in Mr. Pearce's range, an actor that is at home in drama and comedy.
Irma P. Hall, an excellent actress of stage and screen, appears as Clotelia. Tom Bower is seen as Mr. Decker. Sara Rue is fine as Violet, and Shawnee Smith is also good as Faye Jean.
A great debut for a new talent. Toni Kalem is to be congratulated for tackling the job of bringing this mostly unknown work of Anne Tyler to the screen.
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