Big Bad Love

"Very Good"

Big Bad Love Review


Based on a short story collection by Mississippi writer Larry Brown, Big Bad Love is a collage of the "hard country life", following the drunken routines of Leon Barlow (Arliss Howard).

Leon is a shiftless alcoholic, though obviously still a talented writer with his mixture of adjective clauses and ability to envelop anyone around him into an environment he is describing. He's separated from his wife (Debra Winger) with whom he had two children, and he has difficulty playing the part of father, even as he tries to win back his ex-wife's affections.

For his feature debut as director, Howard impressively mixes fantasy sequences with the depressing reality of pushing creativity as hard as you can against a tide of guilt. These false images are not only enticing to watch in their extremity about desiring what you can't have but are also well-paced, following along with the increasing effects of the beer Leon can't stop chugging. They compliment the overall story in their unpredictability and specificity to his wily imagination, instead of creating easily recognizable dream images that would be universal to the entire human race.

An emotional missed opportunity in the construction of the film is that only by reading the synopsis do you discover that Leon is a Vietnam veteran. There is exactly one line of dialogue (and no added visuals) that mentions he saved the life of his best friend. It would have been easier to attach more sympathy to Leon's continually misguided, failing attempts at connection if this piece of information were revealed. We all feel for those who have encountered war, but we don't necessarily care about someone who is always drinking to escape the fact that he still fantasizes about his ex and that his literary genius hasn't yet been recognized.

Another weakness is that, though Arliss Howard is an under-appreciated actor, having worked with such famed directors as Spielberg and Kubrick, there are far too many repetitive close-ups of his face. How many times do we need to see him harried, or with an expression that shouts, "I know this is wrong, but I'm going to do it anyway"? The poignant, everyday squabbles portrayed throughout the course of the narrative are strong enough examples of his character's growth potential without punctuating a moment with a shot of his expressive face. It never becomes a nauseating vanity piece like Mel Gibson's The Man Without a Face, but it does distract attention at key moments.

What is wonderfully rare about Big Bad Love is its use of the human penchant for failure. Most dramas set up overwhelming obstacles that are cured miraculously or arguments that are suddenly forgotten, but Love doesn't let anyone get away easily from the hurt they inflict on others, no matter how accidental.

Big Bad Love is a respectable mix of piercing human frailty, the tricks your mind plays on you, and the unexpected blows to the ego that force separation and reconciliation.



Big Bad Love

Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Monday 1st October 2001

Box Office USA: $0.1M

Distributed by: IFC Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 34

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Barlow, as Marilyn, as Monroe, as Velma, as Mrs. Barlow, as Mr. Aaron, Alex Van as Deputy, as Betti DeLoreo (voice)

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.