Big Bad Love

Subscribe to Arliss Howard alerts

Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Monday 1st October 2001

Box Office USA: $0.1M

Distributed by: IFC Films

Reviews 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 34

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew



Starring: Arliss Howard as Barlow, Debra Winger as Marilyn, Paul Le Mat as Monroe, Rosanna Arquette as Velma, Angie Dickinson as Mrs. Barlow, Michael Parks as Mr. Aaron, Alex Van as Deputy, Sigourney Weaver as Betti DeLoreo (voice)

Big Bad Love Movie Review

Based on a short story collection by Mississippi writer Larry Brown, Big Bad Love is a collage of the "hard country life", following the drunken routines of Leon Barlow (Arliss Howard).

Leon is a shiftless alcoholic, though obviously still a talented writer with his mixture of adjective clauses and ability to envelop anyone around him into an environment he is describing. He's separated from his wife (Debra Winger) with whom he had two children, and he has difficulty playing the part of father, even as he tries to win back his ex-wife's affections.

For his feature debut as director, Howard impressively mixes fantasy sequences with the depressing reality of pushing creativity as hard as you can against a tide of guilt. These false images are not only enticing to watch in their extremity about desiring what you can't have but are also well-paced, following along with the increasing effects of the beer Leon can't stop chugging. They compliment the overall story in their unpredictability and specificity to his wily imagination, instead of creating easily recognizable dream images that would be universal to the entire human race.

An emotional missed opportunity in the construction of the film is that only by reading the synopsis do you discover that Leon is a Vietnam veteran. There is exactly one line of dialogue (and no added visuals) that mentions he saved the life of his best friend. It would have been easier to attach more sympathy to Leon's continually misguided, failing attempts at connection if this piece of information were revealed. We all feel for those who have encountered war, but we don't necessarily care about someone who is always drinking to escape the fact that he still fantasizes about his ex and that his literary genius hasn't yet been recognized.

Another weakness is that, though Arliss Howard is an under-appreciated actor, having worked with such famed directors as Spielberg and Kubrick, there are far too many repetitive close-ups of his face. How many times do we need to see him harried, or with an expression that shouts, "I know this is wrong, but I'm going to do it anyway"? The poignant, everyday squabbles portrayed throughout the course of the narrative are strong enough examples of his character's growth potential without punctuating a moment with a shot of his expressive face. It never becomes a nauseating vanity piece like Mel Gibson's The Man Without a Face, but it does distract attention at key moments.

What is wonderfully rare about Big Bad Love is its use of the human penchant for failure. Most dramas set up overwhelming obstacles that are cured miraculously or arguments that are suddenly forgotten, but Love doesn't let anyone get away easily from the hurt they inflict on others, no matter how accidental.

Big Bad Love is a respectable mix of piercing human frailty, the tricks your mind plays on you, and the unexpected blows to the ego that force separation and reconciliation.


Subscribe to Arliss Howard alerts


Big Bad Love Rating

" Good "


More Arliss Howard

Entourage Trailer

After making a name for themselves in Hollywood, Vincent Chase and his entourage of friends from Queens have finally made a movie. The only problem...

Bastille - Things We Lost In The Fire [Live] Video

Live on the Honda Stage at Music Midtown in Atlanta, Bastille perform 'Things We Lost In The Fire', the final single from their debut album...

Bastille - Oblivion [Live] Video

Bastille perform their single 'Oblivion' live on the Honda Stage at Music Midtown in Atlanta. The track followed Platinum hit 'Of The Night' and featured...

HAERTS - Interview Video

Brooklyn band Haerts released their self-titled debut album this year, and here they talk about how they first got into music, their lifelong friendship and...


Mark Ronson - Daffodils ft. Kevin Parker [Audio] Video

Mark Ronson will finally unveil his fourth album 'Uptown Special' on January 26th 2015 through his new label deal with Sony Music. He has teamed...

Meghan Trainor - Lips Are Movin [Live] Video

Meghan Trainor performs her latest single 'Lips Are Movin' at one of her favourite places in the world: an aquarium. The song features, alongside smash...

HAERTS - Be The One [Live] Video

Haerts perform an intimate live rendition of their song 'Be The One', taken from their self-titled debut album released in October 2014 through Columbia Records....

ScHoolboy Q - Hell Of A Night Video

ScHoolboy Q released his first number one with third album 'Oxymoron', and he now unveils the video to its latest single 'Hell Of A Night'...