Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
United Kingdom/USA, 2001. Good Machine, Gramercy Pictures, Mike Zoss Productions, The KL Line, Working Title Films. Screenplay by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Cinematography by Roger Deakins. Produced by Ethan Coen. Music by Carter Burwell. Production Design by Dennis Gassner. Costume Design by Mary Zophres. Film Editing by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Tricia Cooke.
Brilliant Coen brothers film about a placid barber (Billy Bob Thornton) who tries to arrange a simple scam to get himself out of the boredom of his life. When a colourful entrepreneur comes to his small California town with the idea to start up a new retail scheme in something called “dry cleaning”, Thornton decides that making his own investment in the idea would be lucrative and save him from his mundane daily life of working the barber’s chair with his brother-in-law (Michael Badalucco). Trouble is, he doesn’t exactly have ten thousand dollars lying around to give the guy, so he decides blackmailing is the way to go. Knowing that his wife (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with her department store-owning boss (James Gandolfini), he sends an anonymous letter to Gandolfini demanding the money or he’s going to tell on them for their indiscretion. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy a job as collecting the cash and walking away, and his attempt at the American Dream gets him in more trouble than he ever imagined. Beautifully photographed in black and white by cinematographer Roger Deakins, the film is subtle, poignant and absolutely elegant in structure and design, and benefits from a perfect cast.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Cinematography
Cannes Film Festival Award: Best Director (Joel Coen) (tie)
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Billy Bob Thornton); Best Screenplay