The Man Who Wasn’t There
Crimes and Misdemeanors. Ed and Big Dave (Thornton and Gandolfini) have a heart to heart...
dir Joel Coen • scr Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
with Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini, Michael Badalucco, Tony Shalhoub, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Polito, Richard Jenkins, Katherine Borowitz, Adam Alexi-Malle, Abraham Benrubi, Christopher McDonald
release UK 26.Oct.01; US 2.Nov.01
USA 01/US 1h56

5 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the man who wasn't there It's impossible to guess what the Coen brothers will come up with next, and little could prepare us for this offbeat 1940s noir drama shot in full period style. But it's a complete and utter triumph--a perfect gem of a film. Ed Crane (Thornton) is the title character, a barber in sleepy Santa Rosa, California, working for his brother-in-law (Badalucco) and wondering if this is all life has to offer him. His marriage to Doris (McDormand) is more than a little dry, and he's sure she's having an affair with her boss at Nirdlinger's Department Store, Big Dave (Gandolfini), who's married to the Nirdlinger heiress (Borowitz). Then Ed gets involved in events and actions he could never have imagined, and his life begins to shift and change around him.

With their assured narrative and visual style (think The Hudsucker Proxy meets Blood Simple ... in black and white), the Coens fill each scene with little surprises and bone-dry humour. Almost every line and action gets a laugh--but this is not a comedy! Brilliantly written and directed, with Roger Deakins' stunning cinematography and Carter Burwell's evocative score, the film works on every level, drawing us in and delivering a surprising emotional punch that's as deceptively muted as the characters themselves. Thornton delivers a remarkably subtle and effective performance as a man worn down by life yet still plodding along ... and finding himself in places he never thought he'd be. And he's surrounded by terrific support from McDormand and Gandolfini (of course!), plus scene-stealing turns from Shalhoub (as rich-snob lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider) and Jon Polito (as get-rich-quick schemer Creighton Tolliver). The casting is perfect from top to bottom--character-filled faces brimming with sardonic wit. It's very low-key, but also pacey and involving as we follow Ed's odyssey step by step into what seems almost like a dream. One of the most surprising, original and impeccably made films in ages--don't miss it.
themes, violence cert 12 12.Sep.01

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
the man who wasn't there send your review to Shadows... "What can I say. I saw this movie advertised. I heard it did well at Cannes and was directed by the Coens (with who I admit I am unfamiliar). so I sugesteed to a mate we should give it a try, not knowing what to expect ... and i saw one the the finest films of the year, beautifully shot and scored, with a performance that must mean Thornton is already writing his acceptance speech at for this years Oscars. Quite simply an amazing, amusing, touching, poignant, beautiful film. I'm off to buy Fargo, Blood Simple and The Big Lebowski!" --Rob, UK 27.Oct.01

"Well, I may have been disappointed with O Brother, but the Coen Bros have redeemed themselves with this one! Excellent movie; there were a few laugh-out-loud moments, but mostly you were just engrossed with the story--how it was going to play out, who was going to get away with what, who SHOULD get away with what. The black and white noir effect was very powerful, and the entire cast was excellent, particularly Billy Bob Thornton; he's morphed into yet another completely different role, And Tony Shalhoub--I didn't even recognize him right away. Go see this one!" --IndigoJen, Los Angeles 15.Nov.01

© 2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall