The Man Who Wasn't There Reviews
A genre that has affected many areas of the film industry is film noir. Despite this influence, there have been few films in recent years that are complete néo noir crime film. One of the few films that have is The Man Who Wasn't There. Directed by master filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen, the film chronicles the story of a soft-spoken barber whose attempts to improve his life and the lives of those he cares about, which are sometimes morally ambiguous, continuously create destruction and add to his feelings of invisibility. Like all of the Coen Brothers' films, the film is directed beautifully and, with master cinematographer Roger Deakins behind the camera, is shot beautifully. Both of these combine to fit into the néo noir crime genre entirely actually. From the shadows to the smoking to the black and white coloring to even the opening credits, the film feels exactly like the film noir films of the 1940s like The Maltese Falcon. It is incredible how much the tone and atmosphere fit the genre perfectly. The writing of the movie is also engaging and thought provoking. The reading is also interesting how the plot meanders without a real central conflict. The film focuses on the main character and how he tries to solve his problems. The film focuses on seemingly small crimes that spiral out of control. It seems as though any likely problem that could occur does happen or any time when a solution seems achievable, something goes wrong. This makes the plot and script unpredictable. Seemingly small details slowly develop into larger plot points as the film progresses. Also, the film's plot and characters raise interesting questions on life and the search for meaning within it. The main character of the movie, Ed Crane, is played extremely well by Billy Bob Thornton. He is restrained in his performance. However, this underacting fits the genre and the shy and unassuming character that he portrays. His voiceover is both engaging and informative. It is interesting how his character is given no catharsis or emotional outburst that most characters of this genre are given. The rest of the cast, even the smaller bit part characters, each fit their roles, but they are given so little time to develop their character or their story. For instance, Scarlett Johanson provides the sweet, cute, and lovable girl that Crane develops a friendship with. Similarly, the late great James Gandolfini able to transform from likable and friendly businessman to dark and insane attacker in a single scene. Unfortunately, not all of the performers give good performances. Coen Brothers regular Frances McDormand and her character are typically bland and uninteresting. Her character could have been performed by anyone with the same results. Also, despite some significant elements, there are problems with the story as well. Despite the way, the minor details of the story come together, the plot itself could have developed more or given a more detailed response to each event. The pacing of the film is also slow at times and almost boring because of the lengthy gaps in between major events or plot points. Also, the messages or ideas of the film, while interesting and entertaining, sometimes come across as preachy or pessimistic. The Man Who Wasn't There is an incredibly well-made film with superb directing, writing, cinematography, and an excellent performance by Billy Bob Thornton. While it has a few problems, it exemplifies the film noir genre in an entertaining fashion. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the Coen Brothers or classic film noir crime movies.
Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is a sad, unsatisfied and chain smoking middle aged man - barber by profession. Married to Doris (Frances McDormand) who is having an affair with her boss Big Dave (James Gandolfini). When a wacky looking Creighton (Jon Polito) walks in for a haircut bragging about an opportunity in dry cleaning business, Ed sees a way out of his stagnated life. When he decides to resort to blackmail, things do not turn out the way he anticipates.
Each actor reserves a different acting style when working with the Coen brothers, they become more eccentric, active and alive. But Thorton's character has lesser facial expressions than Arnie's T2 role. Jon Polito looked like a replacement to their usual choice John Goodman for such roles as he tries to act and talk him. This movie serves more like an experimentation vehicle for Coen Brothers for exploring genres since the script didn't look like it had any potential to be greater than what it turned out to be. Scarlett Johansson plays a small role and oozes sexiness and confidence she is attributed with today.
Not their best but still so fun to watch