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

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

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.