Trees Lounge is a film written by, directed by and starring Steve Buscemi. It’s a black comedy centred around an alcoholic and his disintegrating relationships and set mainly in the bar that lends its name to the title. It’s not particularly a funny comedy but, oddly, that doesn’t matter as much as it might. It’s a fairly naturalistic and enough happens to keep you interested as you watch it.
The biggest thing about the film, really, is that the characters all seem real. People make mistakes, some of them keep making them, and they get themselves into awkward situations. People have distinct speech patterns and don’t always say the right thing or do the right thing. People are irrational and do things they themselves don’t understand but actually do ring true. People bicker even when they love each other. These are situations that seem realistic, people who seem real and characters you care about.
There aren’t really any particularly showy bits of direction, but good performances are coaxed out of pretty much all the cast and there are no messy shots of moments when things happen inexplicably. From that point of view the direction is a success. The cast seem really impressive and there are lots of them who should be making lots more movies than they are.
Buscemi plays a screw up. He has lost his job at a local garage and is half heartedly looking for a new one. There is obviously antagonism between him and his former boss and, initially, I felt a lot of sympathy for Buscemi’s character. As the film progresses, however, he proves himself to be more and more messed up and the real reason for him being fired becomes apparent. At this point I feel more sorry for the people around him who feel responsible for him, but I am still hoping that he can turn things around and make good.
The supporting cast includes Buscemi’s brother, and it is striking how much of a resemblance there is between all the cast who play members of the same family. I am not sure if this is because they are related in real life or because of good casting. But you don’t get anyone who looks or sounds obviously unlike other members of their supposed family to draw you out of the story.
The other thing is how much everyone acts like a real family and the relationships seem real. People bicker like real families do, people feel torn between family and other responsibilities. The real strength of the film is in the characters and their relationships with one another, with how real and genuine everything feels.