Some pieces of film would be better served by a live theatrical performance– look no further than the 2011 Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson led The Sunset Limited which, to be fair, ended up being a powerful movie in its own right. However, Coffee and Cigarettes isn’t really on the same wavelength. Instead of a contained plot, 11 somewhat-strange vignettes comprise a larger piece that questions whether or not humans lean on crutches (in this case coffee and cigarettes) in an effort to connect with one another on a deeper level. Director Jim Jarmusch, who brought you none other than Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, gives a valiant effort– and some scenes are quite enjoyable, but most fall flat and fail to create a clear message.
I won’t go into detail, breaking down the plot of each vignette, but there are some intriguing ideas behind some of Coffee and Cigarettes’ most well-known scenes. In the Iggy Pop and Tom Waits led Somewhere In California, a piece that won “best short” at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, two famous musicians spend time one-upping each other on their accomplishments, covering their short-comings, and wondering whether or not either of them are on the jukebox in the cafe– they aren’t. Cate Blanchett plays herself and also her envious, and brash, cousin in Cousins. Steven Coogan and Alfred Molina share a hilarious exchange in a way that only the British can in Cousins? Lastly, Bill Murray shows up as a server in a rundown cafe to have a chat with none other than RZA and GZA from the Wu Tang Clan.
As you can tell, there’s a lot of star power, even the Jack White led band The White Stripes show up in a rather quixotic scene where Jack can’t seem to get his Tesla coil to function properly, only to have Meg White explain precisely what’s wrong with the intricate machine and save the day. Despite the sheer amount of talent, most of the scenes are simply tolerable, rather than enjoyable. Oddly enough, one of the more poignant scenes is trotted out last and features two character actors, one if which presumably dies while waiting for his work-break to end.
The artist in me wants to love this movie, but the content keeps me from doing so.
Matt: Maybe watch? Gabe: Don't watch
Have you seen Coffee and Cigarettes? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!