Friday, 18 March 2011

Trees Lounge (1996)

Trees Lounge is a film that celebrates the twin cultures of hard drinking and under-achievement. The movie follows the trials and tribulations of alcoholic Tommy (Steve Buscemi who also writes and directs) as he tries not very hard to put his life back together after losing both his job and girlfriend. Rather than attempting to mend his errant ways, he chooses instead to spend most of his time in the bar of the title and with the company of the flies that swarm around it. Given a chance to earn some cash driving his uncle's ice-cream van, Tommy soon attracts the attentions of sexually precocious teenager and distant relative Debbie.

Chanelling the spirits of Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver and Tom Waits, Trees Lounge is a film steeped in the traditions of modern American independent cinema. Story-wise, nothing much really happens. There are no car-chases, no violent murders. None of the characters are on any mystical journeys towards self realisation or change. Most of the time they just sit on their barstools and drink, kvetch, flirt badly and let life pass them by. If this all sounds like a bad episode of Cheers then think again - behind the banter and darkly comic moments this is a gritty slice of real life to rank alongside the best from American indie-king John Cassavetes.

Steve Buscemi directs his first feature with the lightest of touches, using lots of natural light and a stationary camera. He obviously knows the subject matter well, his unheroic portrayal of Tommy has the benefit of a wealth of experience. We all know Buscemi as Mr Pink, Tony B and "Nucky" Thompson but he's rarely been more charismatic than in Trees Lounge. Backing him up is cool as f**k Chloe Sevigny as Debbie, who serves as a breath of fresh air in Tony's humdrum drunken existence. Also on show are Samuel L Jackson, Mark Boone Jr and Anthony LaPaglia plus a few familiar faces from The Sopranos.

Trees Lounge is an absolute gem and definitely worth staying up for, so pull down the blinds, crack open the bourbon and line the shots up along the bar.

The oldest trick in the book...