The Ladykillers (Coen, 2004)

Sometimes a little distance and age can change your feelings about a film in odd ways. I’ve loathed Joel and Ethan Coen’s version of The Ladykillers ever since it came out three years ago, basically because it represented every aspect of their cinema that annoyed me. Whether it be the constant bantering and buffoonery or the lack of plot and traditional story, the whole exercise felt slight and half assed. However, watching it again in anticipation for No Country for Old Men, I’m stunned to say The Ladykillers impressed me with it’s tight, almost lyrical prose of character driven dialogue and mystical mise-en-scene. The way the Coen’s craft each scene resembles a stage play, characters coming in and out while Tom Hanks and Irma P. Hall deliver long, passionate speeches about faith, ethics, and honor among thieves. It’s also an extremely intelligent epilogue to the religious ironies seen in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, namely the way God and the Devil sort out the souls of the living through environment and nature. The image of the tug boat pulling the large mounds of garbage out to a desolate island sticks out, a brilliant juxtaposition of Roger Deakins’ solemn and striking photography and Carter Burwell’s haunting gospel music. Damn was I wrong.

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