Film Review: Lonesome Jim

The trailer for Lonesome Jim never really excited me, it never truly gripped me or demanded to be watched. It just walked on by, passing a glance not bothering to even really attempt a friendly hello. But when you need a film to watch, and the cast list involves Casey Affleck, Liv Tyler and the director’s chair is Steve Buscemi, Lonesome Jim seems to have enough about it to warrant a reputation as a safe bet.

It really is a case though that this was a film to simply pass away an evening. 91 minutes of storytelling, designed not to challenge or invoke but rather to narrate. It’s not heavy, it’s not hard, it is just what it is, a tale of people brought together and the events that unfold between them.

Steve Buscemi - Lonsesome Jim

The first thing that really hit me with the film is that while Steve Buscemi, in front of a camera, can be comically brilliant and deadpan accurate but behind the lens, he seems to miss the mark. This was his second, and to date, last jaunt at directing his peers and sadly, however much I adore Buscemi, I can see why. Lonesome Jim has a real confusion about it. The camera work just feels mixed and muddled. Large portions of this film are shot very traditionally; an expansive, steady point of view creating a world in which the characters can move, live and explore; suddenly, and without warning, chopping to a handheld camera type shot, with no sense of placement, wild shaky close ups, fast cut, cut, cut as we’re treated to a shift in cinematic tone that seems to bear no connection to the rest of the film. It’s almost as if they’ve mixed “found footage” style videographic production into a tradition mainstream movie; not because it adds anything to the film but because they can.

Casey Affleck - Lonesome Jim

And it’s this shifting of the inflection to one that feels more liking to a home video that really destroys Lonesome Jim for me. The film is naturally swaying towards the depressing end of the spectrum with its plot anyway, so when you combine the “shaky cam” close ups with its narrative language you result in a film that never even attempts to draw you in and for portions actually felt bordering on voyeuristic . It’s other problem is that emotionally it felt blank. Empty. Dead. It’s set in the cold climes of Christmas, and it’s a chill that emanates from the screen.

Lonesome Jim, it’s a straight A-to-B film. Don’t expect to have twists and turns. This film that just plods: eyes fixed on the floor, hands in pockets, to its end. Characters appear at the start and just hang around. It’s the cinematic equivilant of brown. It’s bland, it’s boring, it’s hard to ever really find a place for it, but ultimately it’s inoffensive. It’s brown.

Casey Affleck as the titular Jim is decent; he has one moment of trying to live up to his older brother Ben, with a longing distant stare, but otherwise, manages to keep things ticking forward and creates a character that I grew to like, but that was it – I liked him, nothing more. Liv Tyler, is Liv Tyler, when she isn’t wearing pointy ears there is just something about her that I never quite find truly convincing. Her role in this film isn’t taxing, but she seems to just ooze happiness in a way that never seems warm enough to really power the emotion but never cold enough to feel inclusive to the characters, lives and events around her.

Casey Affleck & Liv Tyler - Lonesome Jim

The less that is said about Mary Kay Place as “Mother” the better. Her performance is in keeping with everything is in this film, it’s innocuous but her character is just so bizarre and strange and naive and steamrollered that honestly, the longer this film went on the more and more disturbed I became by her. And that’s before you even mention that fact that for some reason she constantly refers to herself in the third person: “Mother has done this” and “Mother has done that”. It’s just a bit odd and peculiar, and way, way beyond¬†off putting.

There are some films in this world that seem to serve no purpose than to offer time an excuse to tick by and this is one. It’s strange, it has a plot that is: depressive, boring and uneventful; a camera style that destroys all credibility it may ever attempt to garnish but underneath it all, I needed a film to fill an evening and that is exactly what it did. I truly can’t recommend it, there are far better films out there, and there are far better films for throwing away an evening out there. But I will leave you with this… I didn’t look at my watch once.

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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