Best of
lMovie Review
"The Man Who Wasnít There"
By Mira Harber
   The Man Who Wasnít There is a modern day film-noir by the Coen Brothers. It is gorgeously shot in black and white and shows more shades than any color film could dream of. The story is basic film-noir - the right man, wrong crime, bad-girl wife, shadows, light sliding through partially open venetian blinds and lots of cigarette smoke.
    Billy Bob Thorton plays Ed Crane, second chair barber in a small town barber shop. He is a man of few words - life seems to happen to him, and his main reaction is to smoke silently as he ponders his stifling life. 
   His wife Doris (Frances McDormand) is the book-keeper at Niedegerís Dept. store. The couple invites her boss Big Dave (James Gandolfini) and his wife to dinner. Ed notices that his wife and her boss seem awfully close - they laugh at the same jokes, loudly, and have a certain familiarity that leads Ed to believe they may be having an affair.
   An opportunity to make big money easily (dry-cleaning) comes Edís way, but only if he can lay his hands on big money to invest in the opportunity. The plot moves forward from here - murder & death, reversals/ double reversals, twists and turns of fate, luck, bad luck - itís all there.
   The best thing about the Man Who Wasnít There is the hot shot lawyer Fred Riedenschneider (Tony Shalhoub) that Ed hires to defend his wife. He is fantastic as a totally objective, sharp, slightly scummy, venal counsellor. ĎHe told them to look not at the facts, but at the meaning of the facts. Then he said the facts had no meaningí. Thatís the kind of lawyer you want defending you. Heís wonderful at what he does, as long as you can pay...a lot, and only as long as the money lasts.
  The Man Who Wasnít There is a film-noir in the classic sense - the perfect crime that the Ďheroí gets away with, bad luck/twist of fate/small overlooked detail and boom - now he looks guilty for the crime he didnít commit.
   The smoky atmosphere, stylistic details, and gorgeous photography are all good reasons to see The Man Who Wasnít There. Some people may find it slow moving, and it is. The film could easily have trimmed 20-30 minutes from itís two hour viewing time - but the pace of the picture is all part of the Coen brothersí masterplan. Sit back, relax, take your time and spend a few leisurely hours in another time, another place. Youíll be glad you did.


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