A Slipping-Down Life

Five years of legal wrangling kept A Slipping-Down Life out of theaters in limbo, and now that this adaptation of Anne Tyler's novel has made it to theaters, it's not clear what all the fuss was about. A Slipping-Down Life tells the story of a very strange couple, a singer and her near-obsessed fan, and how their relationship develops over time. "Quirky" would be the best way to describe everybody, but there are not quite interesting enough to merit the moniker. Instead, Evie Decker (Lili Taylor, Casa de Los Babys, High Fidelity) and singer/songwriter "Drumstrings" Casey (Guy Pearce, Til Human Voices Wake Us, The Hard Word) come off as odd for the sake of being odd. Evie is an adult, but still lives with her father. She is very withdrawn, reluctant to talk to people, and prefers simply to sit at night and listen to the radio.

On one of these nights she hears Drumstrings, who is on a call-in show. He is blathering on about looking deeper and nobody seems to understand him, but something about him and his lyrics click with Evie. She then goes to see him at a local bar, and decides that he's the greatest thing in the world since sliced bread. It is an obsession, but not one born out of lust. Instead, she hears the frustration in his lyrics, and feels the same way. Evie believes they are kindred spirits that understand one another, and thus were made for each other. Her few friends tease her about this, and at one point she goes to the bathroom and uses a broken glass to carve his name in her forehead.

Up to this point, Evie did not register on Drumstring's radar. Now, she is in the news for her act, and Drumstring's manager David Elliot (John Hawkes, Identity, Hard Ball) recognizes that it would be a great photo op and free publicity if they were to meet. Evie loves it, and Drumstrings is pretty unemotional about the whole thing. The two begin spending more time together, and inexplicably end up married. Drumstrings seems more intrigued by her than anything else. Evie believes with conviction that if he keeps practicing then fame will follow.

A Slipping-Down Life would be much better if the Drumstrings character were more interesting. Writer/adapter Toni Kalem makes Pearce seem every bit the pretentious singer/songwriter who thinks he is profound but really sounds silly. Evie's devotion to him marginalizes her own intelligence. It's hard to understand why she is so drawn to him when the words coming out of his mouth are so hokey. Writing a deeper Drumstrings would have made the film seem more profound and less superficial than it does. It is fun watching Pearce, in a performance shot before he achieved fame. Drumstrings is a man caught up completely with himself. He is intense and focused, and this illusion is shattered only when he begins speaking.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated R for language including sexual references.

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