Within a small little town situated in a local suburb of America, there is a rustic looking bar called the ‘Trees Lounge’. Inside the 'Trees Lounge', there are a number of regular clientele whom while away there days drinking and living out of a bottle. One of these people is none other than an unemployed mechanic, called Tommy (Steve Buscemi).
Now Tommy, like his fellow booze-hounds, have a rather strange life all in all. For example: (1) His ex-boss, Rob (Anthony LaPaglia), despises him due to a past relationship he once had with his now pregnant wife, Theresa (Elizabeth Bracco). (2) His drinking partner, Mike (Mark Boone Junior), is as much of a bum as he is, although he has an estranged wife and a removals business weighing upon his shoulders. (3) His love life is as sober as the women he tries to pick up in the bar – i.e. sloppy and unfruitful. And (4) His Uncle Al (Seymour Cassel), has recently died on the job, whilst working as a mobile ice-cream man.
Strangely enough, though, Uncle Al's death gives Tommy a new lease of life. Well, because he does not really have anything going on at the moment, Uncle Al’s children allow Tommy to take over his ice-cream van, and then patrol the area he once did with his niece, Debbie (Chloe Sevigny). Moreover, over time both Tommy and Debbie get to know each other on a more personable level as well, whilst smoking, drinking, and venting away the hardships that life has thrown at them.
For Tommy, its his life. And for Debbie, its her hatred for her Father.
Meanwhile, while Tommy is playing Ice-Cream man with his niece, his drinking partner, Mike, tries his best to clarify any problems that he has with his work college, Wendell (Samuel L Jackson), and his estranged wife, Marie (Eszter Balint).
But, to be honest with you, Mike should not have bothered really. You see, one drunken night, both Mike and Tommy are involved with a number drunken escapades, and when what got up to resurfaces the following day, it lands them both in a whole new world of trouble.
Though I suppose that is why what next transpires is both revealing, sobering, and a clarity of thought. As people get slapped – children are reborn – and a bar stool is waiting for a man whom will never show up.
When I first sad down and watched 'Trees Lounge', in many ways it reminded me of the Harvey Keitel film 'Bad Lieutenant' (click here for review) except without the shooting and the mass carnage. Well, I just found that they both shared a similar aesthetic in structure, tone, and plot, thus giving both films a non-story story, plus a rather alternate true slice of life.
OK, so is that a good thing in retrospect? Hmmm? Depends what you want to see really. If you want a structured story full of action, bravado, and lavish set pieces – ooops – try again. Though if you want to see a true-life tale presented and garnished with all the gusto of an urban adventure – yep – you have just hit the jackpot.
You see, from a narrative point of view, I am afraid to say that this film is all over the place. It is very fragmented in the telling, and on occasion, the multiple characters that get a time to shine, do distract within the overall structure of the piece.
Please note, this is not necessarily a bad-bad thing all in all, as it does give this film substance and pathos. But at the same time it does also make it appear somewhat disjointed in places, and difficult to focus on what’s what. For example, as a viewer, sometimes it is difficult to gauge what perspective this story is told from, or what this story is actually about. Although, aesthetically, this movie is a film about Steve Buscemi's character, it is broken up by numerous subplots concerning the ‘guys and gals at the bar’, plus by Mark Boone Junior’s character too.
Ouch! My head hurts after saying all that, ha!
Now for those of you who have watched this film before, please read on. But for those of you who have not, please jump over to the next two paragraph.
OK, so now it is just us buggers’ left whom squirmed at seeing the sight of Steve’s character kiss his niece – oohhhh – touchy subject area, huh? Honestly, do you think that this type of thing should be showcased in filmic form? Or, like some of the critiques have stated, cut out of the film altogether?
Personally speaking, I thought that it was kind of a cringe worthy moment myself, but at the same time it did show that people like Steve’s character, at times, don’t know what the f*ck they are doing. Well, he says it all the way through the film, so even he knows that he is a bit of a plonka. Oh! I don’t know – this type of touchy scenario is always up for debate – and just goes to show that you cannot suppress ‘issues’ for the sake of taste and the ‘common good’. Still, this film was about a man who drinks a lot – so lets face it – he probably would not drink if his life was all roses and gold. Sad... but true.
Overall ‘Trees Lounge’ is a really good film for a non-story story. All of the actors are really good in it – no matter how large or small the role – and on top of that, it does have a message that is worth telling – why do people drink?
Thankfully, it does not try to glamorize this message as if it was a beer commercial. Instead, it show it for what it truly is – and that is a waste of a human life. Bless you guys and girls of this film, as you have really taken a deeper look at how alcohol can destroy lives.
THE RATING: A