Trees Lounge is a 1996 comedy drama film and the debut of Steve Buscemi as writer and director. It was produced by Brad Wyman and Chris Hanley and features a large ensemble cast of actors, including Buscemi, Anthony LaPaglia, Chloë Sevigny, and Samuel L. Jackson. The film's black humor is based on examination of characters' self-destructive behavior, centered around their shared hangout of the titular bar and lounge. Critical reception was mostly positive. Trees Lounge has also been cited as an influence by The Sopranos creator David Chase, who later hired Buscemi to direct "Pine Barrens" and three other episodes of the show, and to star as Tony Soprano's cousin Tony Blundetto during the show's fifth season. It was filmed in Glendale, Queens; Brooklyn; and Valley Stream, New York.
|Directed by||Steve Buscemi|
|Written by||Steve Buscemi|
|Edited by||Kate Williams|
|Music by||Evan Lurie|
|Distributed by||Orion Classics|
Tommy Basilio is an alcoholic and fixture at a local bar, the Trees Lounge, who loses his girlfriend of eight years and his job as a mechanic. After his Uncle Al dies while driving his ice cream truck, Tommy goes to his wake and indulges in cocaine with his brother and cousins. Tommy takes them to the Trees Lounge to carry on drinking, but a brawl breaks out between his cousin and Mike, another regular. After buying more beer at a late night convenience store, Mike and Tommy discuss how Tommy stole money from Rob, the owner of the garage where he lost his job. They discuss how Rob is dating Tommy's pregnant ex-girlfriend Theresa, with the child's paternity in doubt.
Mike turns out to be the owner of the moving company across the street from the Trees Lounge. Tommy asks for work, but Mike says he doesn't need a mechanic. Tommy takes on Uncle Al's ice-cream route, but children initially do not buy from him. Theresa's flirtatious seventeen-year-old niece, Debbie, joins Tommy on his route, saying she had a dream about him. Mike's wife and daughter have left him because of his drinking, and tell him they plan to move upstate. Debbie and friend Kelly go to the Trees Lounge but are unable to prove they are of legal drinking age. Debbie claims her 'boyfriend' Tommy will vouch for her. Mike, Tommy and the two girls go to Mike's house for more drinking, but are asked to leave when Mike's wife calls.
Tommy and Debbie spend the night together at his place. Realizing her father, Jerry, might not forgive her, Debbie calls Tommy and asks to stay with him, but he fears Jerry's reaction and turns her down. She instead decides to leave town with her friend Puck to stay with a cousin in New York City. Jerry meanwhile tries to reconstruct his daughter's steps, and visits Trees Lounge to ask questions. The next day, as Tommy sits in the ice cream truck outside a baseball game, chatting with Mike and his wife, Jerry tracks him down. The irate father bashes him on the head with a baseball bat, smashes the lights and windows of the ice-cream truck, and throws all of Tommy's money and ice cream into the parking lot where they are confiscated by gleeful children. After Theresa has her baby, Tommy goes to the hospital and tries to make amends. When Tommy returns to the Trees Lounge, he hears that an elderly regular customer named Bill collapsed and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The barmaid and other regulars discuss how someone should visit Bill in the hospital, but they forget about him as they carry on drinking. Tommy sits in Bill's favorite seat and drinks a bottle of beer, realizing what his life has become.
- Steve Buscemi as Tommy Basilio
- Chloë Sevigny as Debbie
- Mark Boone Junior as Mike
- Anthony LaPaglia as Rob
- Elizabeth Bracco as Theresa
- Eszter Balint as Marie
- Carol Kane as Connie
- Daniel Baldwin as Jerry
- Mimi Rogers as Patty
- Debi Mazar as Crystal
- Seymour Cassel as Uncle Al
- Samuel L. Jackson as Wendell
- Larry Gilliard Jr. as James
- Michael Imperioli as George
- Charlie Newmark as Puck
- Kevin Corrigan as Matthew
- Michael Buscemi as Raymond
- John Ventimiglia as Johnny
- Bianca Hunter as Kelly
- Suzanne Shepherd as Jackie
- Rockets Redglare as Stan
Steve Buscemi, who plays Tommy and also wrote and directed the film, knows about alcoholism from the inside out and backward, and his movie is the most accurate portrait of the daily saloon drinker I have ever seen.
Trees Lounge earned Buscemi nominations for Best First Screenplay as well as Best First Feature (along with producers Brad Wyman and Chris Wyman) at the 1997 Independent Spirit Awards, though it didn't win.
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- Jeffrey Ressner (2007). "Directing the Sopranos". DGA Quarterly.
- McCarthy, Tom (May 14, 1996). "Trees Lounge". Variety. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- "Trees Lounge". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- Ebert, Roger (October 25, 1996). "Trees Lounge". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 13, 2010.