A Slipping-Down Life

Austin Chronicle


REVIEWED: 03-29-99

There are certain houses that feel and smell and sound familiar and comfortable the minute you step into them. In A Slipping-Down Life, writer-director Toni Kalem has built (or renovated) such a house from Anne Tyler's novel of the same title. Spare and creaky, small and intimate, but with an amicable, roomy spirit, A Slipping-Down Life is filled with lovely, memorable moments and heartbreakingly familiar characters. Evie Decker, nondescript and inert, finds her life catalyst in Drumstrings Casey, a small-time rock star and abstruse guest on the Sweetheart Time radio program. Inspired by the musician's odd "speaking out," Evie performs a remarkable and irrevocable act that gains her immediate notoriety (at least in Pulqua, North Carolina) and the attention of Drumstrings himself. What follows is an improbable and beguiling romance full of warmth and compassion and eccentricity and wit. Lili Taylor's remarkable abilities shine again as she instills the seemingly plain and foolish Evie with depth and dignity and passion and beauty. Actor-turned-director Toni Kalem wisely avoids any gussying up, instead she keeps the movie spare and idiosyncratic. It's the nooks and crannies rather than the decor that make A Slipping-Down Life so interesting. Funny and warm and extraordinarily romantic, you'll want to go there again and again.

--Hollis Chacona

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