‘Lonesome Jim’ is all about Steve

Funny film brings us back home to discover melancholy and love

Tatum Fjerstad

Our generation has grown up on Steve Buscemi.

We’ve seen him play crazy characters in Adam Sandler movies, supporting quirky roles in blockbuster action movies and, of course, Donny from “The Big Lebowski.”

Yes, we grew up on – and with – Buscemi. We just might not have known it.

Buscemi’s latest endeavor is behind the scenes. He directs “Lonesome Jim,” a dry romantic comedy about a jerk guy who is bitterly awkward and shamelessly ignores the social norms of kindness and respect for other people. And he manages to do it all with a rich sense of passive aggressiveness.

Jim (Casey Affleck) returns home to rural Indiana after failing to make a living in New York. He doesn’t relish the homecoming and spends much of his time at home miserable.

But he meets Anika (Liv Tyler), a nurse and single mother, and her apathetic son Ben. The attraction is purely physical as they have 30-second sex on a hospital bed during their first meeting.

Jim’s home life goes from terrible to horrifying when his brother, who is a bigger loser than Jim is, attempts suicide based on Jim’s unintentional advice, “I’m a fuck-up, but you’re a goddamn tragedy.”

Then, while his brother is recovering from his coma, his mother is jailed because Jim’s crackhead, whore-loving, trailer-park-trash, mo-ped-driving uncle is running drugs out of the family ladder-building business.

And, as is common in romantic comedies, just as Jim shows some heart, he and Anika get in a fight over something stupid and they split up.

The film takes the best from pop culture and makes it darker, drier and funnier. Jim’s eternally bubbly mother and pessimistic father closely resemble Red and Kitty from “That ’70s Show.” And the entire premise of the show is a saltier and less musical version of “Garden State.”

“Lonesome Jim” offers a lot of funny quips and downright offensive bathroom humor. But it’s funny. Really funny. Case in point: Jim’s uncle is helping Jim with his “stamina problem” the day after the much-too-quick lovemaking session with Anika. To build endurance, he advises Jim to practice starting and stopping his urine the next time he needs to relieve himself.

“Your dick is like a dog, it’s not going to do anything unless you teach it to.”

Perhaps Jim’s uncle is a glorified portrayal of the kind of characters Buscemi often plays when he’s on screen.

There is the typical leave-town scene as Jim desperately attempts to escape the vice grip that is his hometown. You’re left half wondering and half knowing whether he’ll really return to be with Anika and Ben. The result is typical, but fresh and funny enough to pass for a decent ending.

The idea that a guy like Jim would end up with a gorgeous, caring woman like Anika is not the least bit believable. But who said the movies were real, anyway? More than anything, this is a reflection of what the jerks in the world wish would happen.

And, hey, everyone has dreams. Look at Buscemi – he’s a director now.