Big Bad Love (2001)



Critic Consensus: A boozy depiction of a struggling writer, Big Bad Love is too messy and self-indulgent.

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Movie Info

Actor Arliss Howard made his debut as a director with this emotional drama adapted from a handful of short stories by Larry Brown. Barlow (Arliss Howard) is a deeply troubled Vietnam veteran who has been chasing a career as a writer, with little success; when he isn't struggling with his typewriter, he's usually drinking, and his wild mood swings and alcoholic fits of rage have driven away his wife Marilyn (Debra Winger), who has taken their son Alan (Zach Moody) and daughter Alisha (Olivia Kersey) with her. Barlow would like to see his children, but Marilyn refuses to allow it until he catches up on his alimony and child support payments; one of Barlow's few loyal friends, Monroe (Paul LeMat), a buddy from his Army days, is able to get him work as a house painter. With steady paychecks, Barlow is finally able to clear his debts to Marilyn, but she refuses to acknowledge that he's made much progress in turning his life around, and he doesn't get much more emotional support from his ailing mother (Angie Dickinson) or his friend Velma (Rosanna Arquette). Big Bad Love marked the second screen pairing for husband-and-wife Arliss Howard and Debra Winger; it was also Winger's first screen appearance in six years. Acclaimed songwriter Tom Waits composed the film's original score. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
R (for language and some sexuality)
Art House & International , Drama
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Written By:
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Arliss Howard
as Barlow
Debra Winger
as Marilyn
Paul Le Mat
as Monroe
Angie Dickinson
as Mrs. Barlow
Michael Parks
as Mr. Aaron
Alex Van
as Deputy
Olivia Kersey
as Alisha
Jo-Ann Robinson
as One Night Stand
Kevin Mitchell
as Twin No. 1
Sigourney Weaver
as Betti Deloreo
Matt Mitchell
as Twin No. 2
Sue Peavey
as Cindy
Michael Williamson
as Young Barlow
Coleman Barks
as Minister
Gloria Winters
as Mrs. Shepard
Zach Moody
as Alan
Melody Wilson
as Young Mrs. Barlow
Preston Duke
as Farmer
Jacob McNally
as Farmer's Son
Ian McAnally
as Farmer's Son
Bob Muse
as Lost Freezer Guy
Jo Ann Robinson
as One Night Stand
Cool Man
as Himself
Jacob McAnally
as Farmer's Son
Kenny Brown
as Boxcar Marine/R.L.'s Band
Christie Jackson
as Betti Deloreo
Reginald Wilson
as Boy Athlete
Johnny McPhail
as Mop Guy
Ed Hicks
as Judge
Jaymee Vowel
as Rebuffing Woman
L. Jay Mckinney
as Geranium Drunk
Larry Brown
as Mr. Barlow
R.L. Burnside
as Himself
Cedric Burnside
as R.L.'s Band
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Critic Reviews for Big Bad Love

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (21)

A mess, but it's a sincere mess.

Full Review… | August 8, 2002
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic

Though you couldn't call Love a complete success, it's packed with talent and intelligence, wayward poetry and bluesy longing.

July 20, 2002
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

A movie that can't get sufficient distance from Leroy's delusions to escape their maudlin influence.

Full Review… | June 21, 2002
Toronto Star
Top Critic

The movie is obviously a labour of love so Howard appears to have had free rein to be as pretentious as he wanted.

June 21, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

A rough, uneven but admirably imaginative film.

Full Review… | May 3, 2002
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

While Howard's appreciation of Brown and his writing is clearly well-meaning and sincere, the movie would be impossible to sit through were it not for the supporting cast.

Full Review… | April 26, 2002
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Big Bad Love

Superb direction, acting, music, cinematography. Arliss Howard and his colleagues should be commended for this unheralded gem.

John Drabyak
John Drabyak

The main character (an author), starts the movie by getting drunk. Then he drinks a beer while writing. Then his manuscript gets rejected and he drinks. Then he goes to a bar, gets drunk, and sucker punches a guy. Then the next day, he wakes up in his filthy home and has a hangover. Not a fun way to spend 90 minutes.

Douglas Dillman
Douglas Dillman

A beer-soaked poem of a movie. It's pretty slow-moving, but Arliss Howard's performance and his use of surreality help to capture the chaotic, frustrating, poetic life of Leon Barlow. Everybody in this one provides strong performances, particularly Paul Le Mat as Barlow's amiable best friend and Angie Dickinson as his dignified mother. The dialogue is for the most part crisp and poetic in a broken-down working-class way. Michael Parks has some great moments as the gas station philosopher, at times politely crude and other times quietly insightful. And I love Debra Winger. Her voice sends me into orbit every time. This one reminded a bit of "Factotum" except that in that movie, Charles Bukowski has no redeeming qualities whatsoever and made me not care what happened to him. Here, while Barlow has many of the same characteristics, he still struggles to overcome his demons rather than wallow in them and celebrate them. It's a huge difference and made this a better movie for it.

J Dean
J Dean

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