Lonesome Jim
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (8th September 2006).
The Film

Actor / filmmaker Steve Buscemi isn't your typical Hollywood star, in fact he's that guy most people know by face rather than by name. His choices as an actor have always been strong but never in the category of a leading man...he's the guy that always supports the leading man and somehow manages to deliver memorable performances that occasionally outshines the star of the film. It may also surprise some people that Buscemi isn't just a talented actor but also a talented director, having previously directed two feature films ("Trees Lounge" in 1996 and "Animal Factory" in 2000) as well as a series of TV jobs that includes several episodes of the HBO series "The Sopranos" (1999-2006), one of those episodes ("Pine Barrens") garnered Buscemi an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.
His current film, "Lonesome Jim" is a departure from "The Sopranos" and focuses on the title character played by Casey Affleck, a young man who seems eternally depressed. He returns home to Indiana after struggling to make a living in New York as a dog walker, part-time waiter at an Applebee's restaurant, and amateur writer. He moves back into his parent's house, a suburban hell occupied by mother, father, Jim's brother Tim (Kevin Corrigan) and his two daughters from a divorce. It becomes quite clear that Jim's unhappiness stems from his dysfunctional family. His father (Seymour Cassel) is disconnected from his children, Jim's mother (Mary Kay Place) is the optimistic homemaker who, on the exterior, looks like everything is coming up roses but must hide a monster on the inside. She smothers her sons with enough love and affection to virtually drive them to depression.
Tim's life isn't a picnic either, he's divorced, has two girls, makes a dollar over minimum wage, still lives at home at 32 years of age and coaches a girl's basketball team that has the worst record of the season with zero points scored in over a dozen games. Jim's no sunshine either, he doesn't care for himself or his family in fact he doesn't even like his family, and he takes advantage of his parents, he's sour all the time and is basically in the character's own words, "a f*** up". "Lonesome Jim" isn't a fun movie, but for all the melancholy packed into the frame, Buscemi still finds ways to make us laugh, which is in a sense this film's greatest strength…however, that strength wasn't entirely enough to save us from Jim.
Jim is quite possibly the most unlikable despondent character I've seen, usually there's enough for us to sympathise with a character's predicament, but in Jim's case he's just a jerk. What he does to his family is emotionally despicable, the way he treats his mother is sad and heartbreaking and he's partly responsible for his brother's attempted suicide. While sifting through his days, Jim eventually meets a local girl, Anika (Liv Tyler) and what she finds so endearing about him is anyone's guess, even her son looks up to Jim (did I miss something here? Is heartland USA this messed up?), and she becomes his guiding light…so to speak, Anika becomes the reason for Jim's change of focus…but this is gradual and the pay off doesn't come until the end of the film, in what was a rather predictable conclusion.
Casey Affleck does a serviceable job at playing Jim, his character always seems bored by everything and doesn't require a lot of energy. It doesn't seem as if he was challenged enough and as a result a lot of his scenes seem aloof, especially when interacting with other characters. Liv Tyler plays a character similar to Callie, a character she played in James Mangold's "Heavy" (1995), although in many ways Anika seems like the older wiser Callie. I've found that Tyler's independent film roles have always been stronger than her bigger Hollywood films. Of the entire cast Tyler was my favorite, she was sweet and lovable but also flawed, her performance was mature and admirable.
"Lonesome Jim" was shot on mini-DV for a budget of around $500,000 and it certainly shows, not only is the title character an emotionally ugly wreck, so is the film's look. The DV image is flat and unattractive; the color spectrum is muted and evokes an appropriate sense of gloominess. It was painful at times to sit through this film, its subject matter combined with the way it was shot makes for a trying experience.
"Lonesome Jim" is not for everyone. It will tax you; considering its short 87minute runtime the film felt 3 hours long. There were some humorous moments littered throughout the film, the optimal word being 'littered'. The occasional laugh and the film's ending saves it from being an all out catastrophe, which is rare considering the end is entirely predictable.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, which preserves the look of the film, shot on mini DV the image is as expected flat and includes a lot of artefact noise. As a result the grainy image jumps from sharp to soft depending on the scene, a lot of the exteriors are soft and colors are muted and dull. Blacks are murky and aren’t as bold as one would come to expect from 35mm film transfers. Shadow detail is almost nonexistent. None of these flaws are attributed to Genius Products but rather the format in which the film was shot.

Audio

This film includes only one audio track, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix and for all intents and purposes it may as well have just been a Stereo track as depth is extremely limited and the majority of sound is directed at the front speakers. The dialogue is clean and distortion free, as the film was shot with sound recorded separately. Overall there isn’t anything to write home about regarding this track, it’s as average as they come without crossing the line into what constitutes a bad audio mix.
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

Genius Products have included only a small collection of extras that includes an audio commentary, a short featurette plus a handful of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary by director Steve Buscemi and writer James C. Strouse. The track meanders on at a snails pace for the first 20 minutes as the participants get comfortable, I found the pace and information developed as the film progressed. The director controls the majority of the track occasionally spurring the writer with questions. Buscemi remains mostly screen-specific although he does go off in tangents, he reveals some interesting insight into the filming and comments on his cast, the way it was shot and shooting the writer’s home town and even in his own family home. Overall it’s a rather subdued track that does get boring at times with silent gaps. Fans of the film will likely get something out of it but for anyone else the track is probably worth a listen to once with your finger on the fast-forward button of your remote.

Next up is the "Making Lonesome Jim: A Promotional Featurette" which runs for a blink and you’ll miss it 6 minutes 3 seconds. This is as the title suggests a promotional piece that covers the basics of what the film is about and the cast comment on their characters and what attracted them to the film. It doesn’t delve into anything worthwhile and is certainly not worth repeat viewing.

Rounding out the extras are a series of bonus trailers that are start-up previews which can be skipped, the previews included are for:

- "Killshot" which runs for 2 minutes.
- "Pulse" which runs for 2 minutes 34 seconds.
- "Clerks II" which runs for 1 minute 59 seconds.
- "Sorry, Haters" which runs for 1 minutes 50 seconds.
- "Manderlay" which runs for 2 minutes 6 seconds.

For fans of the film the commentary is probably worth a look, otherwise I was a little disappointed in the lack of substantial extras on this release.

Overall

The Film: C Video: C+ Audio: C+ Extras: D+ Overall: C+

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.