The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
The Coen brothers invite us into an expertly built black-and-white 1940s world of babblers, schemers and tricksters of classical, at times Hitchcockian proportions in this inverted whodunnit. Billy Bob Thornton's narrator takes us through a clever premise about a barber who finds that his wife is having an affair with his friend, and decides to carry out an elaborate revenge plot. Needless to say, things don't go exactly as planned, and the Coens let the Thornton character go from bump to bump on his way to some sort of closure. The Man Who Wasn't There is a parable-heavy, philosophical film with lots of undertones of dark humour. It's always interesting, but also too meandering and unfocused, especially as the story progresses and the Coens seem to be looking more and more desperately for a conclusion. The meaninglessness of it all is an obvious point made by the filmmakers, but alas this discussion ends up feeling a bit too... well, meaningless. There are superb performances all over, not least from Richard Jenkins and Tony Shalhoub, which is why it is also a bit of a surprise that Frances McDormand doesn't get more freedom to roam with her part.