Trees Lounge - * * 1/2*

In his directoral debut, Steve Buscemi creates a bleak portrait of a young alcoholic in a small town in this bitter comedy. Steve Buscemi stars as Tommy, the young alcoholic on a downward spiral. He’s lost his girlfriend to his best friend, he lost his job as a mechanic, and now spends most his time in the nearby bar, Trees Lounge. When his ice-cream truck driving Uncle Al dies, Tommy takes over the job. Soon, he meets up with his ex-girlfriend’s 17-year-old niece, Debbie (Chloe Sevigny), with whom he begins a desperate and somewhat dangerous relationship. Buscemi manages to portray the hopeless Tommy with effortless clarity. We can see him next to Bob, an elderly alcoholic pitifully glued to his chair in the Trees Lounge, and know we are glimpsing Tommy’s future. The film doesn’t have much of an overall point, but it does make for an interesting character study. And Buscemi has corraled a group of talented actors to bring those characters to life (including Mark Boone Jr, Debi Mazar, Samuel L. Jackson, Daniel Baldwin and Anthony LaPaglia). While not as depressing as Leaving Las Vegas (after all, it is billed as a comedy), Trees Lounge offers few light spots, but manages to ring true many times. Overall, this is a good first effort for director Buscemi, lets just hope his future comedies aren’t as somber.

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