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Big Bad Love

Director:Arliss Howard
Writers:James Howard and Arliss Howard
IFC Films; R; 111 minutes
Release:2/02
Cast:Arliss Howard, Debra Winger, Paul Le Mat

Big Bad Love's biggest accomplishment underscores its failings: the film makes a floundering alcoholic narcissist seem interesting and likeable at the expense of both believability and the other characters. Arliss Howard directed, starred-in, and cowrote Big Bad Love. It's clearly a labor of love. He manages to paint a loving portrait of the American South steeped in magical realism and local color. His Leon Barlow is a divorced Vietnam Vet torn between the bottle and his typewriter. Leon tries to reconcile with his ex (played by real life wife Debra Winger) and terminally ill child, but mostly he just flops about with his buddy Monroe (Paul Le Mat) and Monroe's girlfriend Velma (Rosanna Arquette).

This flopping has its appealing moments. Small details and lazy rhythms confer a tangible atmosphere. All of the actors throw themselves in heartily. Sometimes Howard's visual metaphors overwhelm the composition, and more often than that, one simply wishes the film wasn't as self-centered as its main character.


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