Picks and Pans Review: Trees Lounge

updated 10/14/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/14/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Steve Buscemi, Anthony LaPaglia, Elizabeth Bracco, Chloe Sevigny

Life is bypassing Tommy (Buscemi), an unemployed auto mechanic, and he is happy to let it. He'd rather remain stuck to a bar stool at the Trees Lounge, a musty tavern on New York's Long Island, downing drinks and trying to pick up women by telling them that their names are "embezzled in my head." So what if his pregnant girlfriend (Bracco) dumped him for his former best pal (LaPaglia) after Tommy cheated on her yet again? So what if garage owner LaPaglia fired Tommy for filching $1,500 from the till and gambling it away in Atlantic City? So what if Tommy's last shot at turning his life around, a job driving an ice cream truck, is imperiled after he cozies up to his jailbait helper (Sevigny, from Kids)? Another beer, please.

Tommy may be one of life's losers, but Trees Lounge is a winner. It's the first movie written and directed by actor Buscemi, a stalwart of independent films who also turned up this year in Fargo and Kansas City. Lounge shows the influence of John Cassavetes, another actor turned director (Gloria), but Buscemi displays a warmer regard for his characters than Cassavetes did and is more disciplined about cutting off scenes before they wander. Lounge's large, talented cast includes Carol Kane, Mimi Rogers and Debi Mazer, among others, most of whom appear only briefly. (R)

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