The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)


Written by Joel and Ethan; directed by Joel; produced by Ethan

A mild-mannered barber discovers his wife is having an affair, so plots to blackmail the man she’s sleeping with…

Seen before? Yes, on 15 November 2001 at the Metro – an independent cinema in Derby run during the evenings in my university lecture room – with Stuart Oultram, Andy Fisher and my ex-housemate Hilary Neale.

Best performance: Frances McDormand as the cheating wife, Doris.

Coen regulars (running total of appearances): As well as McDormand (5), there’s Jon Polito (5) as a crooked businessman, Richard Jenkins (1) as a piano-playing teenager’s father, Tony Shalhoub (2) as the slick lawyer, and Billy Bob Thornton (1) as lead character Ed.

Best bit: The scene where Ed ‘invents’ a story about what happened on the night of the murder – the lawyer buying it as a fiction, but both Ed and Doris understanding that he’s telling the truth.

Review: Barton Fink to O Brother was a run of five really entertaining movies, full of vim and fun and especially heart. This, however, harks back to the feel of Miller’s Crossing – both films are lovely to look at (in this case, black-and-white and stylized 1949 design), but it’s difficult to care about the characters or get invested in the story. It’s so cold and detached. Soulless, in fact.

Six Heavens to Betsys out of 10.

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