Buscemi plays Tommy, a regular guy in Long Island whose life is basically a series of alcoholic binges, sprinkled with failed love affairs, cheap drugs, and terminal unemployment. A parade of supporting characters (all played by Buscemi's personal friends) run in and out of his life, and everyone tries to make some sense of it all.
The Trees Lounge is the unfortunately-named bar where Tommy spends virtually all of his time. It's the kind of joint where a guy can walk into one night and come back out 20 years later, wondering where his life went. It's the kind of place you can almost smell -- or maybe that was just the movie theater's goo-encrusted floor.
I get the feeling that Trees Lounge is the movie that all filmmakers are secretly dying to make -- a personal portrait of simple life, nothing but depression all the way. The reason this kind of movie doesn't get made more often is because (1) no studio in their right mind would let someone do such a thing [case in point: Trees Lounge is being released by the only-recently-out-of-bankruptcy Orion Pictures], and (2) when you get down to brass tacks, not many people really want to make a movie about someone that's more pathetic than they are.
Still, I've got to admire Buscemi for doing it anyway. Buscemi has complained in interviews about having trouble writing the script for Trees Lounge, and it shows, but at least he doesn't let the self-pity get too thick, applying liberal doses of comedy to counter the tragic underscore of the film. Overall, he ends up with a picture that isn't half bad, but which just doesn't make for a light matinee and certainly isn't "fun for the whole family."
As a director, Buscemi isn't awful, but he isn't great. As far as his casting choices, they're fine, except for his breaking of the cardinal rule that Daniel Baldwin should never be allowed to be in a movie. Chloe Sevigny (Kids) is a fun Lolita, and minor roles like Bronson Dudley's eternal barfly are a scream, and they really show Buscemi's knack for comedy. Let's hope he explores this a little more in his next offering.
P.S. Be sure to watch for the cameo by the faux-Reservoir Dogs (it's in the first five minutes).
The glass is more than just half empty in Trees Lounge.
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th October 1996
Distributed by: Live Home Video
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Steve Buscemi
Screenwriter: Steve Buscemi
Starring: Steve Buscemi as Tommy, Chloë Sevigny as Debbie, Carol Kane as Connie, Mark Boone Junior as Mike, Bronson Dudley as Bill, Anthony LaPaglia as Rob, Michael Buscemi as Raymond, Elizabeth Bracco as Theresa, Rockets Redglare as Stan, Samuel L. Jackson as Wendell