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Big Bad Love(R)
Independent Film Channel
Official Site
Director: Arliss Howard
Producer: Debra Winger Written by: James and Arliss Howard
Cast: Arliss Howard, Debra Winger, Paul Le Mat, Angie Dickinson, Rosanna Arquette

Rating: out of 5


Based on the acclaimed short story collection by Mississippi writer Larry Brown, Big Bad Love is the impressive directorial debut of actor Arliss Howard (Full Metal Jacket, A Map Of The World).

The opening line is a mysterious voiceover of an invisible narrator who fades in and out throughout the film, preparing us for innovative, even odd, filmmaking throughout. "Leon Barlow, whose gritty fiction has entertained so few for so long, issued a statement to his wastebasket today, while ignoring a bill from his ex-wife's lawyer," is accompanied by unique, quick-cut cinematography that shows Leon’s humble abode, filled with rejection letters from manuscripts of old. And lots of empty whiskey bottles.

A gritty tale of alcoholic, burgeoning screenwriter Barlow (Howard) struggling to write fiction in the Mississippi hill country, this film is a far cry from the typical writer flick set in academia a la Finding Forrester and Dead Poets Society. Barlow struggles to balance his weekend custody of his children, (a preadolescent boy and a small girl with a terminal illness) a no-nonsense ex-wife (Howard’s real-life spouse, Winger), a war buddy and best friend (Le Mat) who’s puzzling over his own consuming love for a funeral home heiress (Arquette), and an overly concerned mother (Dickinson).

Big Bad Love feels a little longer than it is, but it’s wholly enjoyable nonetheless. Although it’s set in rural Mississippi, even urbanites and suburbanites like most of us can identify with the universal facets of life the film delves into: love, loss, family, rejection, acceptance, fear, pride, perseverance.

Arliss Howard is brilliant and convincing as Leon. The script, by Arliss and his brother James, features a lovely mix of comedic moments and tear-jerking scenes. Debra Winger returns to film after a six-year hiatus to deliver a seamless performance as a woman struggling to deal with two young children and a rather childish ex-husband. Dickinson is right on target as the just slightly overbearing, worried mother doting on her grandchildren. Le Mat (The Outfitters, American Graffiti) tackles the challenging role of redneck best buddy turned mental case after some serious brain damage caused by drunk driving.

Best of all, Big Bad Love is unique! Originality is hard to come by these days, but if you’re in search of a solid, creative, original couple of hours, this one’s for you.

Michelle Fajkus

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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