"The Man Who Wasn't There"
Directed by Joel Coen.
Written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Galdolfini
and Tony Shalhoub.
Release Year: 2001
Review Date: 11/15/01
Today, I went to another new theater (for
me, anyway) near my place, and this one is kind of like the old Key
Theater back in DC...art-house films only. The only theater showing
my current choice was this theater, so it kind of worked out real
"The Man Who Wasn't There" is a pretty
intriguing film. It is also my second-favorite film of the year now
(if you don't know what the first one is, then you must be new to
this list). This film, from the Coen Brothers (most famously of
"Fargo", "The Big Lebowski", and my favorite Coen Bros. film,
"Raising Arizona"), is one of the most beautifully shot films I have
ever seen. Billy Bob Thornton plays a character named Ed Crane, and
Thornton plays so far from his most recent work as a criminal in
"Bandits" that it almost seems like another guy. But, that is
Thornton for you—an incredible actor, and as commercially
underappreciated as he is multitalented: vastly! Here, his Ed
Crane is just about the most unemotional guy you could ever meet,
and he is quiet, and he is dedicated to nothing. In fact, as he
tells you regularly throughout the film in voice-over, "I'm just a
barber." He cuts hair during the day, then comes home to listen to
his wife Doris (Frances McDormand, who is married to one of the Coen
Brothers...but, I can never remember which one).
When the film opens in Northern California
of 1949, we find out that Doris may or may not be cheating on Ed
with her boss, "Big Dave" (James Gandolfini, trying to set Tommy Lee
Jones' record for most films in one calendar year). And, that is
what sets the film in motion.
Much like last year's Coen Brothers offering
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?", this movie seems like it might be
moving in molasses at times, but that is not such a bad thing. Part
of that is Thornton, who is featured in almost every scene and takes
his time meandering through haircuts, conversations, or just smoking
cigarettes. And, part of that is a drawn-out third act, which was
satisfying to me but it took a little while to get to.
What makes this film so good, I have
decided, are three things:
1) The cinematography. Some of the
shots in this film are amazing, and Thornton's perfect coif and
pressed suits look great just sitting there on him, as he takes in
the scenery. Light coming in through windows during an afternoon
hasn't looked this good on film in a while. Fully expect this film
to be up for an Oscar in this category.
2) The pacing overall is great. Like
I said, there are points where it is slow...but, the music and
perfectly-timed moments of humor, drama, violence and surprise make
you stay awake the whole way through. And, it comes in at just
under two hours...excellent.
3) Tony Shalhoub. Shalhoub ("The
Siege", this year's
"Spy Kids"), I believe, should be
Oscar-nominated for this performance. He is only in five scenes or
so, and his hot-shot lawyer is nothing earthshattering in terms of
originality. But, his fast-talking cocky personality provides great
relief in the film's second half, when Ed and Doris need some
representation. The scenes that take place in the prison
interrogation rooms are laugh-out-loud funny. Much like the guy
that played Chaucer in
"A Knight's Tale", his appearance on-screen
alone will make you start to giggle like a schoolchild.
This film doesn't have Salma Hayek, but it's
got everything else. It is not showing in too many cities though,
so hopefully you live in a major film market!!
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard