Thursday, March 13, 2008

PUSHING OFF A LITTLE ON "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN"

I watched No Country For Old Men, for the second time, last night. I still like it, but I don't like it as much as I thought I liked it the first time I liked it. Let's say - on the universal Netflix measuring stick - that it fell from a "REALLY LIKED IT" to a "LIKED IT".

Which is weird... because thirty minutes in, I was feeling a bump of a "LOVED IT" status coming on. So what happened?

Up to the point where Llewelyn puts his wife on the bus, No Country is pretty flawless. Josh Brolin commands the screen like a Fritz Lang protagonist: a decent man finding himself, by chance, wrapped up in a plot with only dead ends. And Javier Bardem, pursuing to the beat of a blood-stained code of ethics, frightens, not because he kills, but because he seems to have the ways of life figured out.

But when Llewelyn hits the road, and the Woody Harrelson, and Tommy Lee Jones sub-plots kick in, the enticement drains. And where Barry Corbin's wheel-chaired and feline infested monologue once felt like appropriate punctuation, it now feels like a cameo in one of those 18 crime scene dramas on television ... silly and overwrought.

[NOTE: Why can't the Coens ever get accents right? Sure, Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Corbin sound authentic, but they're native Texans. The deputy??? Sounds like a goober. Carla Jean's mother??? A weak attempt at regional humor. Kelly McDonald and Stephen Root don't do well for themselves either. I'm sure the Coens exaggerate inflection on purpose ... sometimes it works (Raising Arizona, Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers), and sometimes it's annoying (Fargo) ... but it serves as a distraction in their less comedic/more serious films.]

Simply: No Country For Old Men has already aged... and not in that well kind of way. In contrast, I watched The Darjeeling Limited for a second time, Monday night, and I now think it's greater than I did the first time I thought it was great.

Sadly, no new doors opened up on my second viewing of No Country ... just a few shut windows.

5 comments:

bryan h. said...

I disagree with your take on Josh Brolin's character, at least the parts about him being a decent man who's the victim of chance.

Brolin's character may be a nice guy, and he does end up finding the dead bodies by coincidence. Rather than walk away, or call the sheriff, when he realizes what he's found, he goes looking for the man with the money. Once he finds him, and verifies that he's dead, he doesn't hesitate much over taking the bag. This decision [spoiler alert!] kills him and his wife. He's presented more as a victim of some natural tendency towards dishonesty and violence.

I think this is a great movie (though it's no Big Lebowski) in spite of finding it's pessimism unconvincing.

I agree, though, that the Coens probably don't care much about accurate regional accents. They seem to think (with some justification) that exaggerated accents are funny.

Fox said...

I don't know if I've had a more dynamic fanship with any other director(s) than the Coens.

First I really dug them... then I kinda waned... then I got back into them (that's where I see myself now), though I tend to gravitate more towards their comedies.

I absolutely think *Raising Arizona* is their one true masterpiece. Kat and I were in a hotel in San Antonio last year, and it was on TNT or AMC or something, and the ending shredded me all over again after all these years.

The shot over the shoulder of the elderly H.I. and Ed as their kids and grandkids come home with the narration by Nic Cage on top of it???? GET OUTTA HERE MAN!!! Watery eyes for that entire sequence!

Bryan, would you consider *Big Lebowski* to be your ultimate fave of the Coens? Does anything else of theirs hang up at that level in your eyes?

bryan h. said...

The Big Lebowski is certainly my favorite. I think it's hugely, constantly funny and much more affectionate than any of their other things. The hug between the Dude and Walter at the end seals it for me.

Still, I love a lot of their movies. Everything through Fargo, for sure (even Hudsucker Proxy), and also The Man Who Wasn't there I think are great. I enjoyed Ladykillers and Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? But I did not care for Intolerable Cruelty. Am I missing one? Though I could stand to give it another chance.

I'm totally with you on the end of Raising Arizona, too. That whole forward-dream is one of my favorite things in all movies. Regularly, too, I think (and laugh) about the exchange between Nathan Arizona and the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse when the latter visits the former at his store:

"You got flies."
"I doubt it."

Jason Bellamy said...

Fox: Your experience with "No Country" is the opposite of mine. The first time I REALLY liked it. The second time I loved it. The third time I loved it and felt it was an instant classic, a film that will hold up as well 10 years from now as it does today. And that was all in the theater (saving my DVD for a rainy day...though it better rain soon).

I agree that the film loses some of its momentum toward the end, but not so much momentum that it thwarts its greatness (the one thing I'm dying to change is the nonsense with Carla Jean's mother, whose accent is as forced as her dialogue and makeup).

As for "Darjeeling," I think Wes Anderson's films tend to improve over repeated viewings. Given his plot structuring, the first time through his films seem to be about not much at all. Then the second time through you realize that you were being given clues all along. Once you stop trying to listen for the message, you actually hear it. That kind of thing.

Still, I say that Anderson got as much out of "Hotel Chavalier" as he did from all of "Darjeeling," which I guess is a compliment and an insult, or maybe neither. Not sure.

Good thoughts.

Fox said...

Bryan: I'd like to give *The Man Who Wasn't There* another shot. When I saw it I didn't care for it, but that was during my down-on-The-Coens phase.

In fact, I think most of their films deserve a reviewing from me... especially *Barton Fink* and *The Hudsucker Proxy*... both of which I liked when I first saw them.

For me, *Intolerable Cruelty* won me over b/c of Clooney. I REALLY like his perfomance in that film. In fact, that's why I'm looking forward to seeing *Leatherheads*,... I see traces of that comic acting when I've seen the trailer.

Jason: I'm glad you brought up *Hotel Chevalier*( b/c I just saw it for the first time when I watched Darjeeling on DVD.

To be honest, I don't know how I feel about it yet, but I can say that it felt like a totally different Wes Anderson to me. Well... it definitely has the Anderson "stamp" on it but the tone is like nothing I've felt from him before. Well... maybe he achieved something like that with Margot and Richie in Tenenbaums.

See, I'm not really sure how I feel about it yet. But it did give Jack's character more weight when re-watching Darjeeling. Though, it was already great without it.