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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

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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 »


Performed by Tom Verlaine
See more »

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User Reviews

An Ode to Writing
28 March 2002 | by camerondietrichSee all my reviews

Unfortunately, Big Bad Love, for all its undeniably good anti-mainstream intentions, fails to come off even as the cutting-edge manifestation it tries so strenuously to be. Mr. Howard directs himself as a long-failed writer named Barlow, who keeps mailing manuscripts to various publishers and getting them all back with a variety of rejection letters. The returned manila envelopes bulk large in his rustic roadside mail box. But no matter: Barlow keeps stuffing the box with new manila envelopes. Words keep floating around his head, and even on the screen and on the soundtrack. Even big words you never expect to hear in the Mississippi hill country, except when you remember that you're very close to William Faulkner land and a rich Southern prose tradition that is to American literature almost what 20th-century Irish drama is to 20th-century British theater. And Barlow himself is not simply a fictional figure, but also an approximation of the thought processes of writer Larry Brown.

Big Bad Love actually begins deceptively, with fleeting glances of a bridal couple laughingly fornicating in a bathtub. When a fully dressed Barlow emerges in sleepy, grimy solitude to answer the door, we realize with the help of some pointed dialogue that we have been misled by an idealized memory of Barlow's long-ago marriage to Marilyn (Ms. Winger), from whom he is now separated. Currently, Barlow's only steady companion is a much-married layabout named Monroe (Paul Le Mat) who gets house-painting jobs for Barlow, shares his beer binges and flirts with Velma (Rosanna Arquette), a petty heiress he finally marries.

Barlow receives occasional visits from Marilyn when she drops off their two children for a paternal visit. Alan, the older of the two, keeps his emotional distance from his father, but Alisha is suffering from an incurable disease that foreshadows one of the catastrophes that is going to transform Barlow into a productive writer, much to the surprise of Marilyn and his mother, played by Angie Dickinson.

When you think about it, Big Bad Love has one of the strongest casts you will see in movies this year–and not a bankable one among them. In addition to Ms. Winger, Mr. Howard, Mr. Le Mat, Ms. Dickinson and Ms. Arquette, there is Michael Parks being remarkable in a grizzled cracker-barrel part. And you think some more, and you begin to understand what Ms. Winger hates about Hollywood and all its who's-hot-and-who's-not arbiters of talent, with a calendar in one hand and an adding machine in the other. I simply can't believe that an actress as gifted as Ms. Winger can't find a decent role to play in her mid-40's. The camera can be cruel, granted, but in Europe an actress of Ms. Winger's caliber would be kept busy in grown-up movies.

Ultimately, though Big Bad Love is not without misfortunes and misadventures, it is mercifully free of malignancy. And though the writer as hero is not an ideal movie subject, it is nothing if not morally refreshing.

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