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The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

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A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.

Directors:

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (uncredited)

Writers:

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
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Popularity
4,342 ( 335)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 24 wins & 41 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Billy Bob Thornton ... Ed Crane
Frances McDormand ... Doris Crane
Michael Badalucco ... Frank
James Gandolfini ... Big Dave Brewster
Katherine Borowitz ... Ann Nirdlinger Brewster
Jon Polito ... Creighton Tolliver
Scarlett Johansson ... Birdy Abundas
Richard Jenkins ... Walter Abundas
Tony Shalhoub ... Freddy Riedenschneider
Christopher Kriesa ... Officer Persky
Brian Haley ... Officer Krebs
Jack McGee ... P.I. Burns
Gregg Binkley ... New Man
Alan Fudge ... Dr. Diedrickson
Lilyan Chauvin ... Medium
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Storyline

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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The last thing on his mind is murder.

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | UK

Language:

English | Italian | French

Release Date:

16 November 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Barber Project See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£419,609 (United Kingdom), 28 October 2001, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$664,404, 4 November 2001, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$7,494,849, 24 February 2002
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen came up with the story while working on The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). While filming the scene in the barbershop, the Coens saw a prop poster of 1940s haircuts and began developing a story about the barber who cut the hair in the poster. See more »

Goofs

When Ed and Frank are at the bank, Ed lights up a cigarette, a distinctive Zippo lighter click is heard. But a few seconds earlier, one can clearly see that the lighter is already open. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ed Crane: Yeah, I worked in a barbershop, but I never considered myself a barber. I stumbled into it. Or married into it, more precisely.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to citizens and merchants of Orange, CA and The Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood - City of Pasadena, CA. See more »

Connections

References The Asphalt Jungle (1950) See more »

Soundtracks

Moonlight in Vermont
Music by Karl Suessdorf
Lyrics by John Blackburn (as Johnny Blackburn)
Performed by Hugo Winterhalter and His Orchestra
Courtesy of The RCA Records Label, a unit of BMG Entertainment
Under license from BMG Special Markets
See more »

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User Reviews

Great pastiche of the noir genre
19 July 2002 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Ed Crane is a barber who quietly wants more from his life. When he meets a man with a business proposition he decides to go for it. He suspects his wife is having an affair with her boss and anonymously blackmails him – however things in noir are never straightforward and blackmail leads to murder and a series of events are sparked off around Ed.

I must say I'm surprised this is as high up the imdb charts as it is, but I'm not surprised by the lukewarm reception it had from multiplex audiences. This is a slow, moody homage where things just happen, rather than a neat `start-middle-tidy finish-bad guy dies' type thing. The Cohen brothers have a reputation for the old quirks and here is no different – mixing the steady noir narration with talk of haircuts and bingo makes for a strange if humorous mix. The plot is good but the noir feel mixed with weird going-ons may alienate many audiences.

Thornton is a perfect choice – his features fit well in the black and white shadows and his voice suits the noir narration. McDormand is good and Gandolfini gets another good role and does well. The support is very good – Badalucco, Shalhoub, Polito are all very good. Some elements of it are like a spot the TV face – we have Benrubi from ER, Higgins from Ally McBeal and Abundas from Six Feet Under all in small roles. It's even nice to see a cameo from McDonald.

Overall this isn't as funny as it was billed, simply because it is a noir. As such the Cohens mix the familiar themes of that genre with all new subjects and create a great effect.


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