Director: Steve Buscemi
According to Roger Ebert, when the feature film debut of actor turned writer/director Steve Buscemi premiered at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, Buscemi told the famous critic that the film “was a portrait of a direction his life was going in before he started acting.” This being said, after watching this aching glimpse of a thirty-one year old barely functioning alcoholic, we are instantly grateful that he chose his career, thanks to all of Buscemi’s memorable turns in films such as Ghost World, Reservoir Dogs and Fargo. In Trees Lounge, Buscemi stars as Tommy, an unemployed former auto mechanic who has recently lost his job for “borrowing” money without asking and whose pregnant girlfriend (whose baby may be Tommy’s) has left him for his former employer. He spends most days and nights at the local bar, named Trees Lounge, which is run by Carol Kane and attracts most of the neighborhood drunks such as Mike (Mark Boone Jr.) who befriends Tommy and remains oblivious to the fact that his nightly ritual and devotion to the bar is alienating his wife and child. After the death of the neighborhood’s beloved Uncle Al, Tommy reluctantly takes over his job driving an ice cream truck and finds his life heading in an even riskier direction when he befriends the seventeen year old niece of his ex (Chloe Sevigny). Their time together which starts as merely a friendship becomes tinged with flirtation and danger as he and Sevigny spend more time together, much to the dismay of her parents (Daniel Baldwin and Mimi Rogers). Featuring small turns by actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Buscemi, Debbie Mazar, Michael Imperioli, Elizabeth Bracco and Anthony LaPaglia, Trees Lounge proves to be one of the most realistic, unapologetic and impressive independent films about alcoholism, earning Steve Buscemi nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay.