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LONESOME JIM

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Steve Buscemi's comedy-drama about tentatively embracing life would be more compelling if the film didn't seem so lifeless. Casey Affleck is Jim, the prodigal son and failed writer, returning home to Goshen, Ind. He moves in with his parents (at Christmas, natch), refuses their job offer at the ladder factory and pals around with his suicidal brother and a very low-key nurse (Liv Tyler). What little excitement there is occurs after Jim makes a bad deal with his Uncle "Evil," who at least is animated by drug use. It's just slightly engaging ... a downbeat tale of a wannabe artist reuniting with the family he once left in the small-town dust is at least familiar ... though I never quite connected to Jim's self-absorbed gloominess. To me, Jim's mom, played by Mary Kay Place as a smile-through-the-tears desperate housewife, would have made a fresher character study. (AH)

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