Film-Forward Review: [COFFEE AND CIGARETTES]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Cate Blanchett as Cate
Photo: Jim Jarmusch

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Directed & Written by: Jim Jarmusch.
Produced by: Joana Vicente & Jason Kliot.
Director of Photography: Frederick Elmes, et al.
Edited by: Jay Rabinowitz, et al.
Released by: UA.
Country of Origin: USA. 96 min. Rated: R.
With: Roberto Benigni, Cate Blanchett, Steve Buscemi, Steve Coogan, Alfred Molina, Bill Murray, Iggy Pop & Tom Waits.

Jim Jarmusch’s latest film could be transplanted to the stage of a black box theater on Santa Monica Boulevard in LA or in the West 40s of New York. It’s like a showcase for actors to be seen by agents and casting directors, except this ensemble is already made of stars and celebrities.

Eleven redundant sketches, usually featuring a duo, endlessly discuss, literally, coffee and cigarettes: ”It’s not just a healthy lunch, just coffee and cigarettes,” etc. Most of the film’s dialogue is centered on improvised arguments, which mirror each other. You know you are in trouble when the first scene begins with the ever-hyper and overacting Robert Benigni already having consumed four espressos. However, in “Cousins,” Cate Blanchett sends up her stardom, playing a self-involved movie star named Cate, as well as her resentful, dark-haired cousin, Shelly. Blanchett has fun at her own expense. But as amusing as this scene is, it follows the course of a skit on The Carol Burnett Show. Another well-acted piece is “Cousins?”, where an exuberant Alfred Molina springs upon a disdainful Steve Coogan the news they are distantly related. But again, there is no surprise in the scene’s reversal of fortune. And Tom Waits is refreshingly glib and deadpan in “Somewhere in California,” while his scene partner, Iggy Pop, self-consciously acts.

With its cast, Coffee and Cigarettes might appeal to aging baby-boomer hipsters. But in the scene, “Those Things’ll Kill Ya,” when one Jersey guy says to another who is lighting up, “Jesus, not again,” you might want to chime in. Kent Turner
May 14, 2004



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