Rewatched Aug 28, 2010
Sarah Bailey’s review:
(review written 8/29/10)
Billy Bob Thornton’s voice is made for noir. And The Man Who Wasn’t There is noir as fuuuuuuck. The gravelly, near-monotone voiceover of the protagonist, the knife-edge shadows and cigarette smoke, the lies upon lies and not-so-innocent people getting in over their heads. It’s also really funny when you least expect it, jerking the laughs out of you almost before you realize what’s happening.
The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, right up there with No Country in the Coens' body of work. There’s some debate over the direction being too slow, but I thought it smartly paced the ineluctable tumbling of events out of control, a slow-motion avalanche that is no less destructive for its speed. The acting is typically brilliant, with Frances McDormand as the surprisingly tough Doris; Tony Shaloub as the condescending attorney spitting a philosophically inspired defense argument; James Gandolfini playing a slightly softer but still unnerving version of Tony Soprano; Richard Jenkins as congenially drunk family friend. And then there’s Billy Bob Thornton, channeling Buster Keaton as a man who really is trying not to be there, but is inexorably (though not blamelessly) pulled into events anyway.