Film

Sad Sappy Sucker

Buscemi's Lonesome Jim = Garden State Redux

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What if someone decided Garden State—that cinematic Bible for disaffected hipsters everywhere—was neither hip nor disaffected enough to convey the true plight of discontented hipsters? Well, then we'd have something like Lonesome Jim—a film that's essentially a Garden State remake, but one that cranks up the dial on "mopey," and damn near blows the speakers on "angst."

Jim (Casey Affleck), a 27-year-old wannabe writer with an impeccable side part and soulful eyes, has just moved back to his Indiana hometown to "have a nervous breakdown"—only to find that his older brother Tim (Kevin Corrigan) has beaten him to it. When Jim makes an offhand comment that causes Tim to attempt suicide, Tim winds up in the hospital, leaving Jim to assume his responsibilities at their parents' factory.

Jim slouches his way through this life, occasionally taking a break from looking depressed to make a cruel comment to his mother (the excellent Mary Kay Place). Enter Anika (Liv Tyler), a nurse with an inexplicable interest in Jim. Cut to the airport escalator—er, the train station lobby—and love ensues.

Director Steve Buscemi has an eye for poignant little details—from soda machines dispensing Mellow Yellow to Jim's mother's over-decorated house—and he coaxes solid performances out of most of his cast. Liv Tyler has finally fleshed out that horse face of hers, and she's radiant and likeable here—so much so that it hurts to see her wasting her affections on Jim. Affleck might as well have worn a paper bag with a frowny face painted on it for all the depth he gives his character—although perhaps he was operating on a specialized emotional spectrum ("grumpy," "surly," "pouty," "self-pitying," "suicidal") that can only be interpreted by other extremely sad people with floppy hair, like a whistle only dogs can hear.

Jim tries hard to capture a uniquely American variety of twentysomething angst—unfortunately, that angst keg has already been tapped by that dude from Scrubs, and with a better soundtrack. I can only hope this means that the Sad Young Man movement has run its course. Since now we all know that the moral of the story is "get a girlfriend," can we move on?

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