Trees Lounge

(USA - 1996)

by Vanes Naldi

Cast: Steve Buscemi, Mark Boone Junior, Carol Kane, Chloe Sevigny, Elizabeth Bracco, Anthony LaPaglia, Danny Baldwin, Eszter Balint, Debi Mazar
Genre: Drama
Director: Steve Buscemi
Screenplay: Steve Buscemi
Cinematography: Lisa Rinzler
Composer: Evan Lurie
Runtime: 95 minutes

There are different sides to alcoholism: the desperate, terminal side Nicholas Cage effectively portrayed in "Leaving Las Vegas" and the average every day drinker whose life, or better, "microcosm" is restricted by the use of the bottle. This is a brilliant depiction of the emptiness, repetitively, and boredom that this addiction can generate.

Steve Buscemi plays Tommy, an alcoholic who step by step loses everything of any importance in his life. His work, his girlfriend, even his car doesn't work; his life has become the bar (called Trees Lounge) and the bar only. He's so addicted to drinking that he doesn't realize his life is tearing into pieces. He's considered the "black sheep" of the family, and has very few friends, if we can consider them as such.

The first half of the movie is centered upon Tommy's character and how he lives his "life," then it moves onto another argument, the fact that Tommy needs someone. He finds his company in Rob's niece, wonderfully played by Chloe Sevigny. She is an insecure teenager trying to experience something new like hanging out with an older man, someone her father despises, and someone who can't legally be "with her."

Buscemi's interpretation of Tommy might not be as direct or immediate as Cage's in Leaving Las Vegas, but he plays the alcoholic perfectly. He does so without using clich?, and in the process shows there's something of a good side to being an alcoholic. He never admits he's made a lot of mistakes until he visits his pregnant former girlfriend in the maternity ward at the end. Here he confesses his mistakes, says he's sorry, and claims he's ready to redeem himself, yet like the perfect drinker he never even touches upon not drinking anymore, which obviously is his biggest problem.

There are also other good performances, starting from Chloe Sevigny. Anthony LaPaglia plays Rob with too many clich?, but still is pretty effective. There are cool cameos from Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Imperioli as well.

This is a love it or hate it kind of movie. If what you're looking for is a realistic portrayal of an addiction, a disease, it might be fascinating to you. Otherwise, you'll give it * or less like other critics did. There are ways to depict social, physical, and mental diseases in a "Hollywood" way with the bad or good side of it emphasized to make a bigger impression, but unless you show both sides of the coin the best you can end up with is a good but not entirely realistic and satisfying movie. This might not be the most "entertaining" movie to sit through, but it's intended to be this way. There's nothing entertaining about alcoholism, and while Cage's dramatic performance was fascinating, Buscemi's might be even more realistic and interesting. It might not be the most direct movie, but if you understand the subtleties, the fact that Tommy can't even realize where his life is going, you'll be left satisfied.




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