Is the dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?
-- Bruce Springsteen, "The River"
I'm Jimmy O'Brien, and ice cream runs through my veins.
JIMMY O'BRIEN (Frank Whaley) is a stand-up comedian. Not a very good one, which explains his day job at Tops Grocery, where he stocks shelves with his best friend RAY (Ethan Hawke) and pilfers cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Like any dreamer, Jimmy yearns to escape his working class roots and some day make it big. And he would, too, if not for the nagging details of his small life.
Jimmy lives with his high school sweetheart ANNIE (Carla Gugino), their daughter WENDY (Jillian Stacom) and his wheelchair-bound grandmother RUTH (Lynn Cohen) in a sagging house propped among the stark suburban sprawl of blue collar New Jersey. Burdened with a run-down car, Ruth's failing health and, after being fired from Tops, a quick succession of low-paying jobs, Jimmy grows increasingly irritable and distant. Despite his best efforts, he seems to float on the precipice of manhood, torn between devotion to his family and the relentless echo of his dreams.
I'm Jimmy O'Brien, young, fresh, angry.
As the pressures of his home-life mount, Jimmy finds release amid a lonely stretch of comedy clubs along the Jersey turnpike. Every Tuesday—in some smoky corner of The Laughing Stock—he offers a rambling monologue to the sparse, impassive crowd. Like a poor man's Lenny Bruce, Jimmy lets fly with biting commentary about the naked details of his life: the withering frustration of menial labor, the joys of fatherhood, the pain of caring for the woman who raised him, the slow but steady breakdown of his marriage. But as Jimmy's situation devolves with each passing year, so too does his routine, until the line between persona and reality is blurred entirely.
No more jokes . . . but if you feel like laughing.
So consumed is Jimmy by his far-flung dreams, he can barely raise a word in protest when Annie tells him she and Wendy are moving out. In fact, it is only after Ruth passes away that Jimmy registers the full impact of his loss. Racing against time and the searing failures of his past, Jimmy reaches out to his family in the most loving way he can—by letting go.
"Whaley's performance is earnest and often riveting." -Box Office Magazine
Jimmy O'Brien is a stand-up comedian - and not a very good one. Like any dreamer, he yearns to escape his roots and make it big. Jimmy lives with his high school sweetheart, their daughter and his invalid Grandmother Ruth in a sagging house with a run-down car.
As the pressures of his home-life mount, Jimmy vents his frustrations on stage. Like a poor man's Lenny Bruce, Jimmy lets fly with a biting commentary on the details of his life, until his own reality is blurred.
In the style of his acclaimed feature debut Joe the King, Frank Whaley's The Jimmy Show explores an America where dreams are sometimes few and far between.
With honesty, compassion and wit, The Jimmy Show reminds us that sometimes what we're searching for has been there all along.
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