A Slipping-Down Life

Director: Toni Kalem

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


Adapted from the Anne Tyler novel, A Slipping-Down Life is a portrait of a very different kind of heroine. Infused generously with poignancy and humor, it tells the tale of a woman lost in her own isolation as she embarks on a journey to self-awareness.
Drumstrings Casey is a musician who rants his own brand of rock poetry. Sexy and brooding, he is every adolescent girl’s dream. However, Evie Decker is not a teenager but a grown woman, sensible, responsible, working at Circusland amusement park on the edge of her small southern town. Late one night she hears Drum on the radio and is drawn to him like a moth to a flame. She and her best friend track him down to a club where his set is interrupted by a blood-curdling scream from the ladies room. Evie has carved CASEY into her forehead. When the event makes the local papers, the two are brought together. As if fate has played its hand, these two outsiders must now deal with the cards dealt them.
Writer/director Toni Kalem makes an exceptional directorial debut, constructing a wonderful lyrical style whose direction, performances, and cinematography all unite in a distinctly dreamy sense of place and purpose. As Evie, Lili Taylor gives a magical, sensitive portrayal of a quiet girl who makes a subtle metamorphosis. Guy Pearce is wonderfully idiosyncratic as Drum, full of mystery and surprises. The depth of the characters may drive the novel, but it is the deep performances that make this film a delight.

Toni Kalem, Director
Toni Kalem has an extensive background as an actress in film, television, and theatre. She is perhaps best known as the tough Private Gianelli in the film Private Benjamin, and as the Bronx teen queen, Despie, in Philip Kaufman’s, The Wanderers. A Slipping-Down Life is her first film.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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