What makes a movie a “Stoner flick”? It’s not the quantity of weed within the span of the film. Doesn’t even require the main character to be much of a pothead. It’s the vibe. The apathy, the pacing, the hazy framing, the muddy sound mix.
Trees Lounge, the directorial debut of Steve Buscemi, encapsulates all of these things. There’s only one scene that incorporates weed, but the film would benefit when watched with a slight weed buzz, some potato chips, and the cheapest beer you can find.
I hate when reviews are 80% summarizing of the film, so I’ll just say that Buscemi stars as this guy who got fired from his job and spends all of his time at the bar underneath his apartment, slowly digging himself deeper and deeper into a mess of a life.
The film, when seen from a bird’s eye, is super bleak. Most of the characters, daytime regulars at a bar, feel hopeless and depression-coping through drinking. But when we’re there, when we’re in each scene, it’s joyful. It’s a hangout movie, mostly because it’s so damn fun to hangout with these people. I wouldn’t doubt that Buscemi called all his friends to see if they wanted to be in his little film, and that’s what the cast is made up of.
There’s also such a natural sense to all of the dialogue. I’m split between thinking most of it had been improvised and thinking it had been rehearsed to the point of being ingrained. Scenes go where they go not as a tool to propel, but because that’s what would happen. This could easily make for a dull film, but in the hands of Buscemi and the electric cast, it shines.
I was shocked that I hadn’t ever heard of this film before I’d watched it. It should be on the same level of Dazed and Confused. Or Inside Llewyn Davis, which I would also consider a Stoner flick despite zero (I think?) weed. Highly recommended.
You can stream Trees Lounge on Amazon Prime.