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A slacker's tale proves a modest achiever

March 31, 2006|Jan Stuart | Newsday

When you are feeling like a loser, taking a trip to loser-land may not be the most consoling recourse.

Such, more or less, is the conclusion reached early on by Jim, the eponymous slacker played by Casey Affleck in Steve Buscemi's low-key comedy "Lonesome Jim." Having bottomed out as a dog walker in New York City, Jim returns to his family home in rural Indiana to wallow in the source of what he calls his "chronic despair."

In quick succession, Jim absorbs the powerful inertia-inducing effect of his divorced, directionless brother (Kevin Corrigan), his infantilizing, doormat mother (Mary Kay Place) and his terminally disinterested father (Seymour Cassel). There is a glimmer of possibility in an attractive nurse (Liv Tyler) he sleeps with shortly after meeting her at a bar. But Jim's alienation seems to annihilate whatever shot at hope and well-being crosses his path.

The affectless Affleck limns such a convincingly bleak portrayal of homecoming blues that you can feel a deep, Edvard Munch-ian scream rising up from your gut within the opening moments.

But screenwriter James C. Strouse mines a surprising amount of dark humor from his protagonist's miasma, as Jim is sucked deeper into the nowhere lifestyle that prompted his exodus to the big city.

If "Lonesome Jim" feels like it's perpetually on the verge of evaporating, Buscemi brings to the material the boundless empathy for misfits and screw-ups he displayed in "Trees Lounge."

A modest film, but it earns its keep.


`Lonesome Jim'

MPAA rating: R for language, some sexuality and drug content

An IFC Films release. Director Steve Buscemi. Screenplay James C. Strouse. Producers Galt Niederhoffer, Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Jake Abraham, Gary Winick, Steve Buscemi. Director of photography Phil Parmet. Editor Plummy Tucker. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

Selected theaters.

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