This is the film that made Billy Bob Thornton an icon. He pulls triple duty as the star, writer, and director (his debut in this particular area) of this haunting tale based on an acclaimed short film he also authored and starred in.
Set in a small Arkansas town, we follow Karl Childers (Thornton) a mildly retarded man who, for the past 25 years has been in a state hospital for murder. He's deemed stable, and released back into the world. We follow him as he returns to the town he grew up in a d tries to move on with his life. He begins a friendship with a young boy, his mother, and her gay friend. Things get greatly hampered thanks to the mother's vile, alcoholic, and abusive boyfriend, and it's not long before Karl realizes that a change is in order.
The character of Karl is one of the most fascinating and memorable ever. I can't help but break out my imitation of him every time I see this movie, or hear it mentioned. He's just a joy to watch, and he's got a really interesting take on the world that is great to experience. He's not the only one who shines here though. J.T. Walsh is chilling as a fellow patient at the hospital, John Ritter is great as the gay friend Vaughan, and Dwight Yoakam is terrific as the loathsome boyfriend.
The film is equal parts funny, sad, and unnerving. It's extremely compelling and unforgettable, and makes for a great watch, although it's probably not something you really want to endure all that often, as it does get very uncomfortable to bear at times.
This one really impresses me, and it's a shame that Thornton hasn't reached the level of greatness that he does here since.