....or "A Matter of Little Consequence". And yet, so was The Big Lebowski; which I think was self-aware enough to discuss its own triviality in Sam Elliott's drawled introduction. Just the story of a man, and not much of a man at that. Jeff Bridges that gap. The Coens completely subvert the story of a guy forced into playing detective, to resolve a kidnapping. When Brolin gets the letter demanding ransom, he phones up payroll and stuffs $100,000 into a too small briefcase. How can that be spoiler if its isn't important to Brolin/Mannix or the story. The eventual fate of the money, pretty much nails it as macguffin. Bye bye macguffin!
The Coens adore cinema but they don't worship it. The Coens are the guardians of the soul of the screenwriter; that tortured being. They really don't like what Hollywood does to writers. As writers, it is nice to see the return of the brothers, electrically present in this script. Bridge of Spies feels even more as if they leased their name out to that movie. There's a moment of juxtaposition of people on a train staring malevolently at Tom Hanks' "protector of the constitution" with kids pledging allegiance to the flag. Now that felt like Coen-speak, but not much else. A question though? Would a writer with communist leanings be able to write honestly in Hollywood in 2016? I dunno, the things a film will make me think about. I don't think the Coens are attempting that here, or have any clue that they have that ideology on board, but their evocation of the Communist/ Hollywood anti-dialectic (the film uses the word dialectic, so I wanted to stuff it in my review, in honour of big-worded cinema) shows how absolutely NOT a matter of little consequence the film is, in how it stirs ideas together.
Actually, I find "Much Ado About Nothing" to be exactly that, in a similar manner to Hail Caesar!. Men are off to war, and yet what does the play deal with instead? I am making the connection between the importance of language, which, in these stories of nothing much, is of tantamount importance. A bigger plot might divert from the wordplay. The Coens' screenwriting presence in the film is gigantic, in the way that obsesses people about Aaron Sorkin films. The chameleon Coens fit their words to the situation a wee bit more than Sorkin does. I truly adore their use of Hammett in Miller's Crossing a lot more than the westernism of True Grit, which I appreciate only. This is closer to Barton Fink and don't care so much for that. The pull of language is powerful. The quality of the cast, right down to tiny rolls for Christoph Lambert and Wayne Knight, speaks to actors tripping over themselves to get at the script. There are many outstanding moments of language combining with acting skill here. Michael Gambon masticating his words before swallowing. When Scarlett Johansson opens her mouth for the first time. The delightful skipping across the lillypads of verbosity of the Swinton twins or Fiennes; letting Wes Anderson know what he is looking for. Clooney fumbling his last line and erupting into profanity.
Which leads to another heavyweight comparison for a film which I started by calling inconsequential. One of the many beautiful elements within Mulholland Drive is the acting within the acting scenes. Like a set of nested Russian Babushkas. Naomi Watts fumbles her way through her audition scene in her kitchen, and then launches into an incendiary piece. That this is a performance inside another performance, short circuits my head. It's a gorgeous feedback loop. It makes me fall in love with the process. Here Clooney gets his audience behind the camera swallowing hard....and then the Coens make him drop the ball. Go and see the film just to hear that speech and the word he forgets. It is utterly choice.
So if Mannix isn't exactly Lebowski, it may affect the weight of the piece. His arc; this extremely difficult job that he has....which he handles quite lightly, isn't so involving is it? The Coens may be infecting with a virus of self-deprecation. That's entertainment. It isn't aeronautical engineering. It's no big deal what they do. Except we know it is magic.
So much for answering the question "how did the film make you feel?"
This film went by so quickly. As a measure of enjoyment I was surprised how fast it went by. The two musical scenes; Johansson and Tatum, I thought were brilliant. All of the Hollywood sound stage scenes were exceptional. Lovingly crafted and shot to Deakins standards of brilliance. McDormand and her scarf was my favourite joke.