"The Ladykillers"
Dirs: The Coens

Diana Takata

I have often found the Coen Brothers amusing in a sadistic kind of way, sort of like a Three Stooges episode. The Ladykillers definitely reminded me of the Stooges, complete with physical humor and idiots gone rampant as they try to keep themselves semi-organized as they attempt to perform a most improbable heist. Tom Hanks, as the leader of the pack, evokes a kind of genteel everyman, a buffoon doomed to moral judgment by the superior and fundamental goodness of his Black Southern landlady.

The Coen Brothers will often spoof American culture in a patronizing way, as if they, the sophisticates, are winking at us and saying "aren't all these American stereotypes idiots?" That goes for mid-westerners (Fargo), south-westerners (Raising Arizona), southerners (Oh Brother Where Art Thou). With Ladykillers, the Coens finally find a new slant, a moral core that they seem somewhat reverent of -- Black Christian women.

Now the Coens ride a slippery slope with this one, but don't seem to patronize our Black Christian (played by Irma P. Hall, who should get an Academy Award nod for her work) but rather seem to be seeking a moral core in American society that they have heretofore so thoroughly and cynically parodied. In Ladykillers, the Coens seem to be returning to a kind of faith, although a faith still wrapped in the most sardonic and cynical of packages.

My problem with the Coens is that they are afraid. Afraid, I think, to be serious, even though they certainly have the talent to be. It would be interesting if they would put their talent in a direction that critiqued a real problem in culture instead or ersatz issues that impact no-one. Will they, for example, be the first to satirize the Iraq war? I somehow doubt it.

-- Diana Takata

Copyright Web del Sol, 2004

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