Evie Decker, the odd-duck-turned-strange-swan played by Lili Taylor in the strenuously winsome drama A Slipping Down Life, is a classic Taylor type. In the beginning, Evie shuffles meekly through one of those crummy amusement park jobs meant to represent America at its dead-end kitschiest. Then she becomes obsessed with a struggling rock musician (Guy Pearce), carves his name into her forehead, and the two nestle uneasily like two bruised peas in a pod. Taylor does that thing she does when she whispers as if she has just discovered speech; Pearce enjoys himself doing his own singing, and embracing grunge.
In her first film (shown at Sundance in 1999), writer-director Toni Kalem works from a 1970 novel by Anne Tyler, but adds so many tics and frills of indie aesthetic that it’s hard to see the swan for the feathers.