Lonesome Jim is actor Steve Buscemi's third outing in his director shoes and it's in much the same, bone-dry, post-Jim Jarmusch-ian vein as his previous efforts, but with an even bleaker core of humor. The characters are mostly sullen or sociopaths, and the narrative touches upon such surefire laugh-getters as suicide, divorce, drug-dealing and debilitating depression, but it's mostly handled with a wry, winking quirkiness that keeps things from weighing too heavily. Anyone familiar with Buscemi's other films will know more or less what to expect.
When wannabe writer Jim (Casey Affleck) crashes and burns in New York City, he retreats to the comfort of his rinky-dink Indiana hometown, where the bulk of Lonesome Jim takes place. Buscemi and writer James Strouse (who grew up in the little Indiana home where much of the film was shot) seem to be having a ball skewering the characters and their dead-end situations, although there's enough affection lurking just around the edges of the frame to keep this from becoming just another independent movie shooting lame ducks in a pond.
Besides Affleck's glum and possibly talentless Jim, we get his even more depressed and impossibly hostile brother (indie icon Kevin Corrigan), their ridiculously chipper mom (Mary Kay Place), a sleazebag, dope-dealer uncle named Evil (Mark Boone, Jr.), a coma played for laughs, and the world's most pathetic girls' basketball team. The humor is dark, the pace deliberate, and there's a studiously no-frills quality to even the film's most chaotic moments, but, in its detached and deliberately understated way, Lonesome Jim makes the most of the frustrated, small-town lives it shows us. The film is uneven and occasionally a little too monotone-ish for its own good, but it's almost always worth watching. Also stars Liv Tyler and Seymour Cassel. Lance Goldenberg
Lonesome Jim (NR) opens April 28 at Sunrise Cinemas in Tampa. Call theater to confirm. 3 stars