By: Denis Blot
I know what you are thinking, “what’s funny about depression – should I spend two hours watching a movie about someone else’s misery?” the answer is yes. Director Steve Buscemi and writer James C. Strouse have crafted a semi-autobiographical tale full of dead pan dark humor that while not always immediately funny, becomes hysterical in retrospect.
The basic plot while conventional, is revitalized by the well developed characters whose personalities run the gamut from quirky to suicidal. The performances provide a sensation of authenticity with every exchange of well written dialogue, making even the mundane or absurd scene believable. Most surprising is Liv Tyler, whose beauty often overshadows her attempts at playing a regular person, here effectively portraying a caring nurse who could use a bit of tenderness herself. Strouse based most of the characters in the film on his own family members and people he knew, even setting the story in his home town of Goshen, Indiana. Ultimately this low budget independent film was filmed in his parent’s home in Goshen, and used some of his actual family members in minor roles (listen to the DVD commentary for additional information).
Both Strouse and Buscemi certainly achieved capturing the despair of having to return home after failing in the outside world. Their success is in some ways a curse as some scenes appear so dark in tone that many might find it difficult to laugh at. However, every scene is memorable and viewers who did not as so much crack a smile at certain scenes will undoubtedly have at least a smirk on their face when they remember them days later.
The DVD’s only extra is a full length commentary with Buscemi and Strouse, but if you are a fan of independent low-budget filmmaking it is definitely worth listening to. Everything from the ideas behind the screenplay to the travails of securing financing and finally shooting the film on a limited budget is openly discussed, often with humorous anecdotes thrown in.
“Lonesome Jim” is not for everyone, some people just do not enjoy dark humor, but most should rent this film and hold onto it for a week. If you watch it at the beginning and end of the week you will definitely find it funnier the second time.