Trees Lounge

on September 13, 1996 by Pat Kramer
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   Steve Buscemi has made a name for himself playing weird, quirky characters who emerge from the underside of life and somehow glorify it. But "Trees Lounge," his directing and writing debut (in which he also stars), falls short of that mark set by the likes of "In the Soup" and "Mystery Train," providing a listless drama that never builds to any conclusion.
   Buscemi plays barfly Tommy Basilio, a motivation-less but intelligent alcoholic who spends most of his time in a Long Island dive called the Trees Lounge, which is peopled by an assortment of other has-beens and going-nowheres. By virtue of his own self-destructive tendencies, Tommy has alienated his family and pregnant ex-girlfriend, Theresa (Elizabeth Bracco), who now lives with his ex-boss, Rob ("The Client's" Anthony LaPaglia). Obsessed with his loss, Tommy drinks himself into oblivion. Meanwhile, he survives by taking advantage of whomever he can and picking up women who give him half a chance. Sharing a corner in this depressing scenario is Mike (Mark Boone Junior), who like Tommy has screwed up his relationship with his wife and young daughter. The two men bond, briefly, for the purpose of snorting drugs and trying to score with two underage women. But even Mike rejects Tommy when he discovers Tommy's true nature. Carol Kane plays Connie, the sympathetic bartender who is perhaps Tommy's only true friend.
   In this Live Entertainment production, Buscemi chooses to focus on images of despair, decay and alienation. But he provides little reason to empathize with his characters. With an ending that is as incomplete as Tommy's life, "Trees Lounge" remains as fuzzy as a memory as the bottom of a whiskey bottle after a long day at the bar. Starring Steve Buscemi, Carol Kane and Mark Boone Junior. Directed and written by Steve Buscemi. Produced by Brad Wyman and Chris Hanley. An Orion release. Drama. Rated R for plentiful strong language and some drug content. Running time: 89 min. Opens 10/11 in New York
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