Review: “The Man Who Wasn’t There”

The Coens have made their names on making two very different styles of films – on the one hand there’s the darkly comic dramas like “Fargo” and on the other the out-and-out slapstick of “The Big Lebowski” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou”. I’m a huge ‘Lebowski’ fan, kind of liked ‘Brother’, and thought “Fargo” had its moments but was very overrated.

‘Man’ falls into exactly the same category as “Fargo” so if you love it you’ll probably love this too. Make no mistake this isn’t a mainstream film – its extremely slow, very little goes on, and by the end things go off on some weird tangent. However while the story may be rather eh, other elements of the film are true gems.

Most strikingly is the cinematography, DOP Roger Deakins has created a very atmospheric noir style setting and one scene involving Thornton getting a visit from Gandolfini’s widow is creepy as hell in terms of look and shadow (though quite hilarious in dialogue). Performances are also front and center, Thornton is excellent as the quite dry and impossible to ruffle barber whom no-one thinks much of.

McDormand is also good fun as the wife, Gandolfini does a sadly quite standard bad guy, and Tony Shaloub kicks as a fast talking lawyer. There’s also a sort of Lolita-style subplot which doesn’t really have much of a point to it. What’s missing is energy, even “Fargo” at least had nutty characters and drive behind it, this just seems to drain energy from its audience – everything feels so deliberate and controlled that its stifling. Arguably their weakest film in years.