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Big Bad Love (2001)

Vietnam veteran Leon Barlow is struggling as a writer, and his personal life isn't much better. His unsympathetic ex-wife Marilyn doesn't approve of his visits with his two children, and he... See full summary »


Arliss Howard


Larry Brown (stories), James Howard (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Arliss Howard ... Barlow
Debra Winger ... Marilyn
Paul Le Mat ... Monroe
Rosanna Arquette ... Velma
Angie Dickinson ... Mrs. Barlow
Michael Parks ... Mr. Aaron
Alex Van ... Deputy
Zachary Moody Zachary Moody ... Alan
Olivia Kersey Olivia Kersey ... Alisha
Kevin Mitchell Kevin Mitchell ... Twin #1
Matt Mitchell Matt Mitchell ... Twin #2
Sue Peavey Sue Peavey ... Cindy
Michael Williamson Michael Williamson ... Young Barlow
Coleman Barks Coleman Barks ... Minister
Gloria Jackson Winters Gloria Jackson Winters ... Mrs. Shepard (as Gloria Winters)


Vietnam veteran Leon Barlow is struggling as a writer, and his personal life isn't much better. His unsympathetic ex-wife Marilyn doesn't approve of his visits with his two children, and he has problems with alcohol. Yet even when Leon manages to catch up on alimony and child support payments, things in his life seem to decline further, until a sudden tragedy catches him off guard. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The staggering tale of one man's relentless pursuit of imperfection.


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some sexuality


Official Sites:

IFC Films [United States]





Release Date:

October 2001 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Holly Springs, Mississippi, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,293, 24 February 2002, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$100,420, 5 May 2002
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Debra Winger's return to acting after a six year absence. See more »


My Baby's Gone
Performed by Robert Belfour
See more »

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User Reviews

Creative, Puzzling, Complex, Ultimately Rewarding
3 March 2002 | by lawprofSee all my reviews

Arliss Howard acts and directs in "Big Bad Love" which he co-produced with his wife, Debra Winger. Ms. Winger returns to the screen as the former spouse of Howard. She delivers a performance that made me regret her hiatus away from the set. From a starting point as a more or less typical divorced mother with kids she develops her character into a wrenching portrait of both strength and vulnerability.

In a series of illusions, hallucinations and surreal flashbacks, wounded Vietnam vet Leon (Howard) devotes his life to three endeavors: fiction writing, drinking and attempting, through the fog of alcohol, to be a dad to his little boy and girl. His rejection notices are so many that even after wallpapering a room with them he needs a fifty-five gallon oil drum next to his desk to hold the rest. Voiceovers read the letters which contain just about every cliche from the canon of editorial rejection imaginable.

Leon seems to be welded to beer cans - except when he hits the hooch for a change. I don't think anyone writes coherently when he's three sheets to the wind but this guy can.

As a dad he is both devoted and distracted, the often exasperating but permanent part of many a divorced mom's life.

The setting is a rural part of Mississippi that some reviewers have described as beautiful but which I found desolate and depressing (but that's my Gotham viewpoint, no insult intended to the locals portrayed in this film).

Arliss's character, Leon, has a strong friendship with Monroe, a buddy from combat. Unfortunately the lubricant for their relationship inevitably leads to big time trouble. Without excess sentimentality, the two friends navigate a small world that presents minor pleasures and real disappointments. The friendship is deep and real but with a touch of middle-aged regression to adolescence.

The acting here is as strong as the Mississippi drawl. There is little predicability beyond the reality that NOTHING will stop Arliss from writing and sending his many, many manuscripts off to faceless editors, apparently all or mostly in New York.

This film needs a strong word-of-mouth boost to get the audiences it deserves and it'll probably mostly be seen on VHS and DVD. Howard's and Winger's strong and affecting acting offer, I hope, promises for a renewed future for both in film.

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