The Kings of Farce: the Coen Brothers

Every generation has a type of movie that it loves. For the current generation, raunchy college humor might be up at the top. One type that has been done repeatedly, but has never received a lot of success, is the farce.

A farce is a funny way of talking about serious, ludicrous and improbable situations. The directors that do this best are the Coen Brothers.

Of the 24 Coen movies, I have seen seven. Most of these include the most well-known movies: The Big Lebowski, O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fargo, and the most recent movie I have seen is Inside Llewyn Davis.

The newest movie from the Coen Brothers, Hail, Caesar! will be released in February 2016 and I am very excited. But as we wait, let’s talk about why we love the Coens.

Some of the Coen films, including Inside Llewyn Davis and No Country for Old Men are not the typical black comedies that we are so fond of. They are some of their best, and Davis is one of my favorites, but there is nothing better than a Coen farce.

The biggest farce in the Coen universe might be Burn After Reading.

This movie is a joke from open to close.

Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich and Frances McDormand get this movie up and running. This D.C. based farce tells the story of two gym employees that get their hands on “the raw intelligence” and attempt to get a reward. After this plan fails, the two try and sell their intel to the Russians. Everyone starts sleeping with someone else in the mix and before you know it, most of the characters are dead (sorry if this is a spoiler). This movie takes a fairly serious crime like blackmail and treason and turns it into a laughing stock.

The Coens try and use the same actors in several of their movies. Frances McDormand has worked with the Coens for the past 30 years. John Goodman and John Turturro are a couple others that are always in Coen films.

The Big Lebowski, possibly the most loved and cult style Coen film stars both Goodman and Turturro.

giphyFor those who don’t know, The Big Lebowski is about a man named Jeffrey Lebowski, and a man named Jeffrey Lebowski, but called the Dude. This movie revolves around a bowling team made up of Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Jeff Bridges and the “kidnapping” of Bunny Lebowski. It’s also important to mention that this is all started because a Chinaman pees on the Dude’s rug.

This stoner comedy, mixed with a few white Russians, some nihilists, and a well known pornographer keeps you on your feet and constantly wondering “what the f**k?”

Overall, it is hard to have a Coen brother’s film without someone getting murdered or being kidnapped. They seem to be a necessary part of the plot line, and in the case of Fargo, they are the plot line.

In a Coen film, there are very few smart people. The majority of people are imbeciles and idiots, although which characters are idiots is not always clear.

Throughout Inside Llewyn Davis, we think that Llewyn Davis (Oscar Issac) is stupid and reckless with his life. That is true. As a musician, he didn’t take the easy way through life. But in this scene, and really the more you watch, you start to feel that the people around him, those not giving him the chance to shine, are the stupid people.

The Coens have been taking real events and turning them into somewhat comedic, yet poignant films. Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Inside Llewyn Davis and Hail, Caesar! are all based, at least loosely, on real people and real events. Knowing this, it is sometimes sad to know that there are so many idiotic people in our world. It is exaggerated, especially in Burn After Reading, but it is a commentary on the world today.

The Coens drive a fine line between serious and comedy and then easily blur that line into farcical gold.

*Image from Giphy and rogerebert

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