×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Trees Lounge

Currently on view in "Fargo," Buscemi has been one of the mainstays of the Gotham indie film scene for a decade. He has said that his first outing as a filmmaker can be taken as a speculative autobiography, a projection of what his life might have been like had he never left the Long Island village of Valley Stream and gone into acting.

With:
Tommy ... Steve Buscemi Mike ... Mark Boone Junior Debbie ... Chloe Sevigny Raymond ... Michael Buscemi Rob ... Anthony LaPaglia Theresa ... Elizabeth Bracco Jerry ... Danny Baldwin Connie ...Carol Kane Bill ... Bronson Dudley Marie ... Eszter Balint Matthew ... Kevin Corrigan Crystal ... Debi Mazar

Currently on view in “Fargo,” Buscemi has been one of the mainstays of the Gotham indie film scene for a decade. He has said that his first outing as a filmmaker can be taken as a speculative autobiography, a projection of what his life might have been like had he never left the Long Island village of Valley Stream and gone into acting.

His might-have-been life is a pretty sorry one, filled with irresponsible behavior and underachievement. Tommy (Buscemi) is a joker, an alcoholic and, at 31, a loser. He has been fired from his job as an auto mechanic for “borrowing”$ 1,500 from the shop without informing his boss and best friend, Rob (Anthony LaPaglia), who has taken up with Tommy’s longtime girlfriend, Theresa (Elizabeth Bracco), now very pregnant with a kid who may or may not be Tommy’s.

At such a standstill that he can’t even fix his own car, Tommy spends most ofhis time downing drinks at the neighborhood watering hole, the Trees Lounge, and conveniently lives above the ’50s-style establishment. Tommy hustles drinks and one-night stands, and gets kicked out periodically for his excessive behavior, but overall he spends more time there than anyone but an old man named Bill, who never moves from his stool.

Plenty of other people pass through the bar and Tommy’s life. Mike (Mark Boone Junior) is a family man with big problems at home. Uncle Al (Seymour Cassel) ups and dies, bringing diverse family members together for endless bickering at the funeral and giving Tommy the opportunity to take over Al’s ice cream truck. Debbie (Chloe Sevigny) is a hot little 17-year-old with a big crush on Tommy, and when she starts riding around in his truck, it leads to an ill-advised night together that Debbie’s hot-headed father (Danny Baldwin) won’t let Tommy live down.

Neither the comedy nor the melodrama of these situations is punched up in a manipulative way, as Buscemi, seemingly taking his cue from indie pioneer John Cassavetes, roots everything in his characters and actors. Much of the humor stems from people’s eruptions when they find out about the silly, sly and slipshod behavior of Tommy and others. While there are limits to the possibilities of such scenes, the essential reality of the settings and verisimilitude of the characters and situations keep the film from seeming hokey or contrived.

Fortunately, Tommy must finally face up to the repercussions of his shenanigans, which ultimately damage himself much more than any of his momentary victims. Without forcing an unnaturally dramatic climax, Buscemi poignantly conveys the dead-end nature of the lives on display without condescension. He has also happily refrained from giving “Trees Lounge” even a hint of the self-conscious downtown hipness to be found in many of the pictures in which he has appeared as an actor. This is a working-class film through and through, as defined by the bar of the title, in which neither the decor nor the jukebox entries have changed in decades.

Buscemi has filled out the large cast with both familiar faces from the indie scene and unfamiliar newcomers, all of whom seem completely at home. Cassel, Buscemi’s co-star in “In the Soup,” establishes the link to Cassavetes, while some of the bigger names, such as Samuel L. Jackson and Mimi Rogers, are in very briefly.

The film’s virtues are modest, but Buscemi has come out on top by taking on people and a place he clearly knows inside out. Tech contributions on the low-budgeter are modest but solid.

Trees Lounge

(Serio-comedy -- Color)

Production: An Orion Classics release (in U.S.) of a Live Entertainment presentation of an Addis-Wechsler and Hanley-Wyman production in association with Seneca Falls Prods. (International sales: Live Intl., Van Nuys.) Produced by Kelley Forsyth, Sarah Vogel, Brad Wyman, Chris Hanley. Executive producers, Julie Silverman, Nick Wechsler. Directed, written by Steve Buscemi.

Crew: Camera (DuArt color), Lisa Rinzler; editor, Kate Williams; music, Evan Lurie; production design, Steve Rosenzweig; art direction, Jenifer Alex; set decoration, Lisa Kent; sound (Ultra-Stereo), Coll Anderson; casting, Sheila Jaffe, Georgianne Walken. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 11, 1996. Running time: 94 min.

With: Tommy ... Steve Buscemi Mike ... Mark Boone Junior Debbie ... Chloe Sevigny Raymond ... Michael Buscemi Rob ... Anthony LaPaglia Theresa ... Elizabeth Bracco Jerry ... Danny Baldwin Connie ...Carol Kane Bill ... Bronson Dudley Marie ... Eszter Balint Matthew ... Kevin Corrigan Crystal ... Debi MazarWith: Annette Arnold, Steve Randazzo, Suzanne Shepherd, Rockets Redglare, Michael Imperioli, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry Gilliard , Michael Storms, Bianca Bajika, Charles Newmark, Carina Finn, Seymour Cassel, Mimi Rogers, Victor Arnold, Irma St. Paule, Richard Boes, Joe Lisi, John Ventimiglia, Brooke Smith, Lo Tillet Wright, Daniella Rich. Aserio-comedy about a ne'er-do-well barfly, "Trees Lounge" reps a modest, agreeable directorial debut by indie acting stalwart Steve Buscemi. Pic takes a rueful, kaleidoscopic look at the petty feuds and minimal ambitions that dominate people's lives in a working-class New York suburb, and its unassuming air and colorful cast should cue positive reactions on the specialized circuit, even if it doesn't have the weight to become a significant B.O. entry.

More Film

  • UGC Distribution Closes on Mariano Cohn’s

    Ventana Sur: UGC Distribution Closes Market Hit ‘4 x 4’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — UGC Distribution has beaten out all other suitors to clinch what had became by Friday morning the most anticipated deal of this year’s Ventana Sur market: All rights to France on Argentine Mariano Cohn’s “4 x 4,” sold by Latido Films and distributed throughout Argentina by Disney. After mounting speculation about which [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    Film News Roundup: 'Aquaman' Hits $152 Million at International Box Office

    In today’s film news roundup, “Aquaman” has already grossed more than $150 million outside the U.S., Michael Masini joins “Birds of Prey,” and Freestyle buys the documentary “Shamanic Trekker.” BOX OFFICE Warner Bros.’ tentpole “Aquaman” has taken in $152 million overseas in 36 markets, with $135 million of that from China, where it opened on [...]

  • 'Winter's Night' Review: Enigmatic, Offbeat Korean

    Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night'

    There are thousands of films about love’s beginning, and a great many about love’s end. But far fewer deal with a relationship’s late-middle: the spreading, sluggish delta of coupledom when decades of familiarity, if they have not bred contempt, at least threaten irritation. “Winter’s Night,” Jang Woo-jin’s playfully melancholic third feature, after the acclaimed “A [...]

  • Tomasz Kot UTA

    UTA Signs ‘Cold War’ Star Tomasz Kot (EXCLUSIVE)

    UTA has signed “Cold War” star Tomasz Kot. He has appeared in more than 30 films and 26 plays as well as dozens of television series. Most recently, Kot has received award-season buzz for his starring role as Wiktor in Pawel Pawlikowski’s feature “Cold War” for Amazon. The project has earned him a nomination for [...]

  • Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening

    Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening Palm Springs Film Festival

    The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will open on Jan. 3 with historical drama “All Is True,” starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen. Branagh, who will be in attendance at the opening night screening, directed from Ben Elton’s script about the little-known period in the final years of William Shakespeare. Branagh [...]

  • Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies

    Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies at 77

    Actor, activist and influentials member of the Japanese American community, Rodney Kageyama, died in his sleep Dec. 9. He was 77. The SAG member was known for roles in “Karate Kid IV” with Hillary Swank, Ron Howard’s film “Gung Ho” and the spinoff sitcom, and the TV movie “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes” with Max [...]

  • Most Popular Films 2018: The Best

    9 Holiday Gift Ideas Inspired by This Year's Most Popular Films

    From superheroes to super nannies, 2018 was a year full of memorable characters — and memorable movies. Whether you’re a big film buff, an avid follower of a popular franchise, or have a couple movie fans in your life, here are nine gifts that capture the fun of some of this year’s biggest films. 1. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content