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Trees Lounge (1996)

by on 2010/04/12

The joys of the discount bin: I found Trees Lounge for only $2.99.

This was my act of too-little-too-late love for Steve Buscemi — who wrote and directed the 1996 film. I had really meant to see this film for years but somehow never got around to it.

Trees Lounge is the story of Tommy Basilio, unemployed mechanic and drinker. During the 95 minutes runtime, we get to watch Tommy’s downward spiral — his unsuccessful job hunt, the loss of his pregnant girlfriend and best friend, his eventual job as an ice cream truck driver and relationship with a friend’s teenage daughter.

In the in-between time, we get to see Tommy down a copious amount of Budweisers with Wild Turkey chasers.

With a who’s who cast, the movie features performances by Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Boone Junior, Daniel Baldwin, Chloë Sevigny and Anthony M. LaPaglia. More a series of inter-connected stories, Buscemi takes his sweet time exploring the lives of ordinary and interesting people.

Long takes and meandering dialogue, Trees Lounge perfectly captures the experience of listening to a drunk’s sodden tales minus all the spitting and spilled drinks.

During Grushenka’s misspent 20s, she wasted more time than she cares to admit in drinking establishments like Trees Lounge. These tidal pools, with drab interiors and crummy bathrooms, were filled with all kinds of strange life forms. Buscemi captures that atmosphere and those characters capably.

Watching this movie now, years later, it looks like a cast reunion of The Sopranos and was said to have inspired David Chase, the series creator. I can see it. The film’s genius is how ordinary and how genuine it all seems — just like The Sopranos showed us mobsters could suffer anxiety attacks, worry about their lawns and have problems with their teenagers.

Like the film’s theme song of the same name by Canadian artist Hayden, Trees Lounge is languid, introspective, unpolished, rough-around-the-edges and undeniably compelling.

Steve, I’m sorry. I should have bought this sooner.

* * *

Rated 18A for language, substance use and mature situations.

95 minutes

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