Trees Lounge (1996)

August 19, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

We’ve all been to Trees Lounge, at least at one point in our lives, and if you haven’t you’ll drop by one day. It’s a place for the living dead, for slackers, for people that get bogged down by life defecating on them by the ton; a place to forget for a little bit about your life. Steve Buscemi’s Trees Lounge is a film about people on the down and out, following the life of the main character, Tommy, a likable asshole mooching his way through life.

Directed, written, and starring the underrated Steve Buscemi, Trees Lounge is an intimate look into the world of a born loser. The script is tight and well written, reflecting on those that choose not to break free of the limbo of life by doing what’s right to get them out of it. The lines are crisp, and naturally funny, as Tommy has an unfiltered mouth that draws a lot of genuine laughs. The laughs are mixed perfectly with real moments of melancholy reflection on life. “Everybody’s fucked up, but nobody wants anybody else to think they are,” Tommy says. The script bleeds the truth. The film is shot with simplicity, with slight directorial touches to make the film intimate. For example, the focused long shot on the weathered face of Billy or when a home video is shown where the scene weaves in and out of someone watching the home video to the actual moment of the home video.

Steve Buscemi as Tommy is a completely realized character. Tommy is self-aware that he’s an asshole bar junkie that’s an ideal loser with nowhere to go. His life runs on a treadmill, and sometimes he just stands still; bare mediocrity is the limit for him. Buscemi is fantastic, as you hate him because he’s a slacker, but love him because he’s such a charismatic, fun character to follow, as well as charming in an unconventional way. By the end of the film, you really feel for his character, because being a nobody in life is one of the great fears, no matter who says they’re comfortable with being unimpressive. Mark Boone Junior, playing Mike, a guy that has a life and a stable job, but seems to drink and do cheap drugs anyway, is interesting in his voluntary way of wanting to be a loser. The rest of the cast, which includes Chloe Sevigny and Carol Kane, perform well and the characters feel well developed.

Trees Lounge is a phenomenal film. It shows us the ultimate slacker’s problem: enjoying the life of a slacker. There’s no responsibilities, no reason to say you’re sorry, no reason not to mooch. The film shows us that we all have problems, we all feel like nobodies at some point in our lives, but it’s how we react to those moments when we enter the state of mind that is Trees Lounge that determines who we’ll become. By the end, most asks themselves, will Tommy end up a Trees Lounge lifer? The question is actually meant for you to ask yourself.

Potential Drawbacks:

The film is a comfortable, dialogue-driven film with some black comedy that some might not enjoy. In addition, Steve Buscemi isn’t exactly leading man material, looks wise, for those who enjoy more mainstream movies. Some may even find the characters not worth investing in because they are losers, and remind of others that have lived that life.

Film Recommendations:

 Ghost World
Living Oblivion

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