1949, Santa Rosa, California. A laconic, chain-smoking barber with fallen arches tells a story of a man trying to escape a humdrum life. It's a tale of suspected adultery, blackmail, foul play, death, Sacramento city slickers, racial slurs, invented war heroics, shaved legs, a gamine piano player, aliens, and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Ed Crane cuts hair in his in-law's shop; his wife drinks and may be having an affair with her boss, Big Dave, who has $10,000 to invest in a second department store. Ed gets wind of a chance to make money in dry cleaning. Blackmail and investment are his opportunity to be more than a man no one notices. Settle in the chair and listen. Written by
What a difference a good director makes! Billy Bob Thornton, who was sadly misused in Bandits, gets to recover himself in his brilliant characterization of Ed Crane in this film directed by Joel Coen. His performance is so detailed and subtle that he uses his face to great advantage in the close-ups while the narration goes on in the background. The use of black and white heightens the atmosphere of this 40s-style film noir. The brilliant cinematography is incredible in the use of shadows and dark tones that enhances the story to such an extent. Frances McDormand is incredible in the film as well. And what could one say about James Gandolfini? He gets better and better all the time. The atmosphere of the era is captured even in the small details. It's very refreshing to see the Coen brothers get over their last disaster of "State and Main" with such panache, aided of course by their star, Billy Bob Thornton and the ensemble cast and a great and ironic story.
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