Big Bad Love (2002)

Written by Arliss Howard & James Howard, based on the stories of Larry Brown
Directed by Arliss Howard
Starring Arliss Howard, Debra Winger, Paul Le Mat, Angie Dickinson, Rosanna Arquette

My Advice: Wait for Cable.

Barlow (Howard) is the most dedicated writer you will ever meet. He is hell-bent on being published, and he needs to get a bigger mailbox, such is the amount of submissions that go out and rejections that come back. He's a bit of a drunk, though, and a tremendous chimney. His wife (Winger, Howard's real-life spouse) has left him and taken her two children with her. They have joint custody, apparently, but Barlow's behind on payments and thus is alone in his world of typing, boozing, smoking with only his buddy Monroe (Le Mat) to keep him company. Barlow won't quit, though, no matter what the world throws at him--and unfortunately, it's going to throw a lot.

What you ostensibly have here is a movie that--I think--wants to tell us something about writers and the life they lead. I think. I say that because the only interesting moments in the film, I fear, are when we see inside Barlow's head. The only interesting things to look at, really, is the punch card above his desk where the words keep changing. The "magical reality" side of things is really powerful--when Angie Dickinson's character (Barlow's mom) starts crying, a flood erupts from the front door of the house. The opening credits is a wild passionate sex scene in a bathtub, obscured by a shower curtain and a bridal gown--and the end result is awesome.

These moments are indeed powerful. Barlow running down a deserted, country round, frantically trying to get somewhere--at first we have no idea where, and maybe neither does he. But tying together all of this is Barlow drinking his arse off, being a distracted and bad parent, and not earning one ounce of sympathy from the audience. Instead, we feel bad for Winger's character, who not only is delivering a great performance amidst all the drek, but has to put up with Barlow regularly. We just are stuck with him for under two hours.

Apart from the imagery--which at the close of the film gives us a great resolution in nothing but metaphor; truly a shame since the resolution just isn't a good enough payoff for how much woe we've had to wade through--the soundtrack is truly choice. Tom Waits, R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford, Tom Verlaine with the Kronos Quartet--the music is all phenomenal. If nothing else, the flick makes me want to run out and grab the album.

Offhand, if you'd like to see some great imagery about writing, then you should by all means rent this and skip to the good parts. But unless you really like watching miserable people wallow, you'd be better of just catching it on cable one night when you're not paying anything extra.

Buy the soundtrack from Amazon!
Buy the book from Amazon!
Buy the DVD from Amazon!

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