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
I haven't seen too many films by the Coen brothers(Ethan and Joel Coen)... in fact, this and Intolerable Cruelty are the only ones I've seen. I decided to see this after hearing many positive things about it, and finding out that it's a tribute to the old 'noir' films of the 40's and 50's. I love noir films, and neo-noir films are often great as well. So I decided to see this film, and I'm am very happy that I did. The plot is great... something that we all can relate to, and yet very recognizable for noir... which is quite impressive, since many noir films suffer from the plot being of limited appeal(the P.I./detective who gets *the* case, etc.). The pacing is excellent. I wasn't bored for a second. The atmosphere of the film is great... very dark and moody, even in the humor. The acting is great... Thornton, McDormand, Gandolfini, Johansson, Shalhoub... everyone is great. Billy Bob Thornton's character is easy to relate to(who hasn't felt that their life wasn't going anywhere, at one point?) and his narration as well as flawless performance is part of what makes the film noir... his character talks very little, but the voice-over and his subtle acting(which includes very little dialog) is great and he carries the movie perfectly. The characters are all well-written... there was only a short period where I didn't entirely understand a characters actions, but this was more because I hadn't thought that much about this particular character than a lack of credibility, character-wise. The story is great... it has some very interesting twists, and it holds your interest and entertains you for the entire run-time of about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The humor is good, but there is fairly little of it in the film(considering that this is what the Coen's are well-known for... well, part of it, anyway) but all of it fits perfectly. Much of it is dark, like the rest of the film. I watched this on a DVD which I borrowed from the library, and when I was about to start the film, I noticed that there were two disks... one in black/white, and one in color. I thought for a while, considered which would be better, but then I remembered that this is a homage to noir films... and, possibly more importantly, the directors intention is to make something that looks as if it could have come from that period where those films were at the peak of popularity... and why would I want to go against the directors intention on a film? That would negate the very point of watching it. All in all, if you're a fan of the Coen brothers directorial style or neo-noir/film noir, you'll most likely love it as much as I did. If not, maybe you can just enjoy the great acting and atmosphere. And if not that, the film probably just isn't for you. I recommend it to any fan of the Coen brothers and of film noir/neo-noir. Fans of any of the actors might also like it. Just be prepared; it is quite dark, and many will not like it simply for that. If you believe you can sit through this film, you definitely should consider it. 8/10
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