The Man Who Wasn't There
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You've got to love the Coen brothers.  They sort of do what Woody Allen used to do which is to make movies with little interference from the studios, that are completely their vision, and are out of the mainstream but successful nevertheless.  I love that they are doing what they do and I want them to keep doing it.  But that doesn't mean I love all their movies.  Unfortunately, such is the case for The Man Who wasn't There.  This movie is so low key, so flat, so unemotional that even though two characters are murdered, one commits suicide and one ends up on death row, it's kind of boring. Now maybe, I'm just too typical of the BoBo  generation and after 20 years of MTV, I just can't enjoy a film with no car chases.  Nah, that isn't it.  It's just kinda boring.  The Coens have tried to produce a 1940's style film noir. It's even in black and white.  A barber (Billy Bob Thornton) thinks his wife (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini).  Billy Bob doesn't do much about it except sit and smoke.  But then he gets an opportunity to invest in a new invention, Dry Cleaning.  So, he decides to blackmail his wife's boss.  This sets in motion a series of tragic events which lead to Billy Bob needing a lawyer (Tony Shaloub).  Then, he sits and smokes some more.  He also spends some time listening to a friend's teenage daughter (Scarlett Johansson) play the piano while he sits and smokes.  This leads to more tragic events.  I don't want to give too much away.  Amazingly, Billy Bob may get an Oscar nomination for best actor for sitting and smoking. Ok, don't get me wrong. He can sit and smoke with the best of them but I just don't think that necessarily qualifies as acting.  The rest of the cast is good.  Frances McDormand is always great although her part here doesn't stretch her acting skills.  She should ask her husband (Joel Coen) and brother-in-law (Ethan Coen) to write her a better part.  Gandolfini, now forever associated with Tony Soprano, is very good.  Tony Shaloub, who usually plays good guy sidekicks (The Siege, Galaxy Quest), plays a bit against type here as the big city defense lawyer, who has the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as a guiding philosophy.  Michael Badalucco (Jimmy on The Practice) is becoming a favorite of the Coens. He appeared in their last film, O Brother, Where Art Thou and plays Billy Bob's brother-in-law and fellow barber here.  Badalucco is doing very well for a guy who worked as a prop man for 20 years before getting his big break on The Practice.   Scarlett Johansson, very memorable as the daughter in The Horse Whisperer, certainly lays claim to a more grown-up persona this year after consorting with slimeballs in two films, Billy Bob Thorton in The Man Who Wasn't There and Steve Buscemi in Ghost WorldThe Man Who Wasn't There certainly qualifies as another bizarre Coen-brother production, but I think they kind of lost it when they were writing this script.  I think I decided that about the time that the Alien spaceship showed up.  Oh, did I forget to mention that?