'Life' Isn't Beautiful
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 28, 2004; Page WE38
The belated release of "A Slipping-Down Life," which was finished in 1999, raises an interesting question. It's not "Why has it been languishing on the shelf for five years?," but "Why is it being dragged into the light of day now?"
Despite the presence of the wonderful Lili Taylor as a Southern amusement-park worker who becomes obsessed with a pretentious, glasses-wearing art-rocker (Guy Pearce), the film is a huge disappointment. Never mind that there's never really any good reason for Evie (Taylor) to go so gaga over "Drumstrings" Casey's (Pearce) music. Sample lyric: "I'll keep your monkey / I'll treat him good / I'll talk to him like he talks to you." Certainly not so gaga that she carves his name into her forehead with broken glass. I guess that made more sense in the book, by Anne Tyler.
Here, in obscure-actress-turned-writer-director Toni Kalem's adaptation, it just seems weird, along with much else about the film. For instance, what is there about Evie that attracts Drumstrings to the point that he marries her (as opposed to taking out a restraining order)? And when is the film set? Based on the mix of vintage and modern-looking clothing, period-jumping incidental music and props that seem scavenged from a junk yard, it could be anytime in the last 25 to 30 years. And the film's crucial scene, in which a now less than happily married Drumstrings and Evie host a disastrous dinner party for his mother and what appears to be his violently alcoholic father, comes out of left field.
As a whole, the film is a perplexing, dark and brooding exercise, which only makes its inappropriately cheery ending feel all the more slight.
A SLIPPING-DOWN LIFE (R, 111 minutes) --Contains vulgar language and sexual references. At Landmark's E Street Cinema and the Cinema Arts Theatre.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company