Projections - Movie Reviews

A Slipping Down Life
A Slipping Down Day
Starring Lili Taylor, Guy Pearce, Irma P. Hall, John Hawkes,
Veronica Cartwright, Marshall Ben

The leisurely A Slipping Down Life is somewhat cloying and idiosyncratic as writer-director Toni Kalem faithfully adapts in 1992 Anne Tyler novel. It nicely captures rural North Carolina life and Lili Taylor gives another of her affecting, though less explosive, performances, here, opposite Guy Pearce.

Kalem, known for her writing and acting on “The Sopranos,” where she’s played mafia wife Angie Bonpensiero, has finally gotten theatrical distribution for a film that played at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. The pairing of Taylor and Pearce doesn’t turn out to be a vibrant southern cocktail low-budgeted effort, even if both have some effective individual moments.

Taylor’s Evie Decker toils as a vendor in a bunny costume and lives with her widowed dad (Tom Bower) and gets much attention from the black housekeeper (Irma P. Hall of The Ladykillers). Out to the bar with her best friend (Sara Rue) she becomes obsessed with Bertram “Drumstrings Casey” (Pearce), a struggling rock musician who waxes poetic between sets.

An arguably psychotic act of self-mutilation will draw Casey into Evie’s life after dropping a bottle of perfume in bathroom sink. Kalem lets her capable leads project into Tyler’s prose on desperation and redemption, stitching together what fluctuates from odd and awkward to rather romantic.

What feels real is Taylor’s embodiment of freedom from a life of quiet desperation and her expressiveness, helps one get over Evie’s strange rite-of-passage. Kalem surrounds her leads with some colorful characters like Shawnee Smith as a wallflower and John Hawkes (Identity) as Casey’s uptight manager who uses Evie as a promotional tool.

It’s clear that Taylor, currently on HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” and Pearce have an affinity for this type of less commercial fare and their duet works well into Kalem’s artistic, understated direction. But, this fairly gentle look at a brooding rocker, perhaps a combination of Peter Gabriel and Jim Morrison, and a woman taken by his charisma, too often slips down instead of cutting deeper.

A Sliping Down Life

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