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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Trees Lounge 1996 * * 1/2 Stars


Brooklyn native Steve Buscemi made his directorial debut with 1996's Trees Lounge. And ever since, he has made a few more films as well as helming some episodes of TV shows (Love, The Sopranos, Oz). With "Lounge", Buscemi takes on the lead too, playing alcoholic and unemployed car mechanic Tommy Basilio. Steve's Tommy acts as a sort of Greek chorus but hey, the bar remains the star. "It's a good deal, it's a good deal for me!" Maybe Stevie, maybe.

Trees Lounge, well it's like watching '87's Barfly minus that flick's gritty one-liners, revealing irony, and overly soiled look. Nevertheless, almost every public face is aggressive, every barkeep agitated, every half-drunkard unintelligible. No one's future looks that bright and well, Buscemi uses "Lounge's" shooting locations (which appear to be NYC boroughs) as a way of swallowing his personas up whole. You can just smell the stale lager, the salty Beer Nuts, and the aroma of a rye shot of Wild Turkey. Believe that. 

As mentioned in the first paragraph, Steve Buscemi is the director/star of Trees Lounge but he also mysteriously invites a bunch of non-visible, known actors to fade in and out of his tied house vision. We're talking Carol Kane, Seymour Cassel, Samuel L. Jackson, Mimi Rogers, and Michael Imperioli (to name a few cause there's more). They're on and off the screen faster than a speeding bullet and you wonder, are they doing Buscemi a favor by filling the 95-minute running time with meaningless cameos or are they just his buds. Heck, I found the whole viewing experience here to be rather untypical and kind of disunited. 

All in all, Trees Lounge is well-directed and well-acted. It establishes the atmosphere of a shabby Cheers where everybody knows your name and well, where your worn out barstool is. The problem is that the flick intentionally wades in despondency, establishing itself as a strict character study about lushes that despite a few, witty/sarcastic moments, never goes anywhere. Departure "lounge". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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