Mel Gibson did it. Kevin Costner did it. They both got awards. Tom Hanks also Did That Thing He Does. Robert Redford did it. Clint Eastwood does it all the time, but he's Clint, and you don't mess with that mutha. And now, the next big box office star to make his won movie is Steve Buscemi.
Steve Buscemi is an actor with a following. He was in Reservoir Dogs, He was in Escape From L.A., he was blink-and-you-miss-him in Kansas City and Pulp Fiction. He's done a lot of other stuff that doesn't come to mind, but believe me, you've seen him. You know, little Italian guy, kinda a pip squeak but pretty charming but damn cool? Yeah, that guy.
So he pulled his resources, used his huge clout, and made himself a "bleak comedy." He wrote it, directed it, and stars in it. He also built the sets, sewed the costumes, catreed the event and filmed it at his house.
Well, maybe not.
Point is, he made an Independant (read 'art house') film. Is it good? Sure. It's an actor's piece, with all kinds of "dialouge" and "acting" and "story line" and "meaning" and "message" and stuff. So yeah, it was over my head. I kept asking "Hey! Where's the explosions? Where's the naked chicks?" I was told to keep the noise down or they'd throw me out, critic or no.
The movie follows the rather dreary life of Tommy (Buscemi) who has just lost his girlfriend to his best friend who is also his boss who has just fired him. So Tommy spends a lot of time in a bar called, get this, Trees Lounge. He hits on any woman he can find, he drinks himself into oblivion, he fraternizes with the other denizens of the bar. They are all losers. As is he. He's a mechanic whose car doesn't run, he's stuck in a dead end town with the same people he grew up with, and he pretty much reminds you of the Uncle your mother never wanted you to hang out with because he always brought you booze or pot and you were only 13.
Is it funny? Hmm.... OK.
From time to time, yes, there are funny bits. But these are not jokes, this is comedy built from knowing the characters, and watching people react. It's subtle humor. But it's also very, very depressing. I could say it's a study of how a loser drunk becomes a complete loser drunk.
The acting is superb, which you should expect, since they obviously didn't spend any money on explosions. It had to go somewhere. The direction is quite good, and the script is rich with slice of life dialogue. Of course there's no catchy phrases. Except maybe "Get me a beer." They say that one a lot. I think it'll catch on.
Man, is it just me, or do you start to think Directors aren't all they're cracked up to be? I mean, every two-bit actor is directing his or her own piece, and it's always heralded as a success. It's like actors, being actors and doing a lot of acting, know how a movie should look, and they do a damn good job getting a movie to look how they want it to look. And you never see Directors turn into actors, they'd suck! I say screw the directors!! In the old days, they didn't have directors, just a guy that did everything, including star in the piece. Did Olivier need a director? Did Chaplin? No!!!! I wanna see what happens when they put Pauly Shore behind the camera!!!
"OK, like, let's get the cam-er-a to just film the vomit. Ye-e-eh! That's a take Buh-dy!"
If nothing else, Trees Lounge taught me that it's not OK to drink your life away, even if you own a trucking company. And that's as good a message as I've seen in a long time.
So I give Trees Lounge 2 1/4 Babylons. But I also give it the ART HOUSE bonus of 1 Babylon. That means, if you totally dig art flicks, then this is worth 3 1/4 Babs. But if you're just a dumb shmo, then it only gets 2 1/4.
You make the call.
The Self-Made Critic has spoken.