Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
After failing to become a literary genius in New York, Jim, the highly principled 28-year-old depressive at the centre of actor Steve Buscemi’s sneakily gleeful misery-fest, returns to his small-town Indiana home – with no plans beyond an imminent nervous breakdown. Once back, Jim (played with weary charm by Casey Affleck) is soon reminded why he fled: a distant father, a doting mother who likes to hug him while he’s taking a bath, and an older brother whose frequent life-threatening ‘accidents’ look like anything but. (“I’m a fuck-up,” Jim, not one to spread false hope, tells his brother, “but you’re a damn tragedy.”) With a picture of his idol Ernest Hemingway pinned to his bedroom wall, Jim hunkers down to face the hopelessness of his existence, only to find that he is being drawn, ever so slowly and grudgingly, back into the fabric of life, courtesy of his aptly-named uncle Evil and an intransigently good-hearted nurse played with a sweet touch of dimness by Liv Tyler. Mercifully, the film is less concerned with redemption than it is with revealing the rich and painfully comic details of mundane, haphazard, dysfunctional family life.
“Buscemi does not act in Lonesome Jim, but his sly humor and keen eye for nuance resonate in every frame… Working from an artfully autobiographical script by James C. Strouse, Buscemi refuses to take any character at face value… Lonesome Jim is minimalist to the point of vapor, but Buscemi – a poet of the maladjusted – makes sure this deadpan delight finds its wily way into your heart.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone