The narration in first person.
The black and white.
The anti-hero…yeah, this is definitely Film Noir, but with a bit of a twist, thanks to the Coen Brothers.
Personally, I think it didn't need the quirkier elements, but then I guess it wouldn't be a Coen Brothers' film.
Billy Bob Thorton stars as Ed Crane, a very low key, quiet barber who's just sort of going through life kinda invisibly. This guy is lighting up or smoking a cigarette in almost every single scene he's in. The film takes place in the late 40's or early 50's, so people even smoked in department stores and offices. Kinda sick actually. Anyway, Billy Bob gives a really great, very subtle performance, probably the best I've ever seen from him, even surpassing his great performance from Slingblade! (MMM - HMMM)
He's already nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance, and he really is deserving of the accolade.
Frances McDormand plays Thornton's wife, and as the real life wife of one of the Coen brothers (I forget which) she's in most, if not all, of their movies. As usual she is great in her role, even if the role itself isn't all that. Having just watched Cameron Crowe's wonderful ALMOST FAMOUS again, I'm reminded of how great of an actress she is, even though her most acclaimed performance to date was in another Coen's film, the quirky masterpiece, Fargo.
James Gandolfini is always great, even though sometimes his roles seem kind of hard to tell apart. I mean come on, even if he isn't playing a hit man or a mob guy, he's always intimidating. Right? OK.
I think the first time I ever noticed him was in the great Get Shorty. Great flick. He does a great job here, as usual.
Michael Badalucco was a nice surprise here. I only know him from TV's The Practice, but I don't watch that show, so I've never really paid attention to him. He did a great job here as a guy who's big heart is only surpassed by his big appetite.
Or vice versa.
Tony Shalhoub just gets better and better. I remember him as Antonio the Cab driver on TV's Wings, but since then he's become a really great character actor. Here he plays an almost stereotypical lawyer, but he's so good at it, you just gotta like it.
The big surprise for me was veteran character actor Jon Polito. I never even knew his name before this, but he's been in a ton of movies and TV shows, most notably for me my favorite ever episode of the very dark Millenium. Actually, that particular episode was the most upbeat episode they ever had, and Polito was a big part of the success of the episode. Here he's kinda over the top, but it works perfectly.
I guess I kinda dig character actors. It's like, they're necessary to move the story along, but at the same time they never steal the glory…but they do steal quite a few scenes.
The Man Who Wasn't There is an interesting little movie; A throwback to classic Film Noir like the classic Double Indemnity. But with last year's incredible MEMENTO and now this film, maybe the genre will become a bigger part of the Hollywood landscape.