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The Man Who Wasn't There | 2001 | R | - 4.6.4

Film noir from Joel and Ethan Coen set in California in the 1940s, about a reserved, unhappy barber (Billy Bob Thornton) who discovers that his wife (Frances McDormand) has been unfaithful. He decides to teach her a lesson by coming up with a blackmailing scheme, but his plan backfires and he becomes involved in murder and suicide instead. Also with James Gandolfini, Michael Badalucco, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Polito, Tony Shalhoub and Katherine Borowitz. [1:57]

SEX/NUDITY 4 - A young woman unzips a man's fly while he's driving and tries to perform oral sex on him (we see her head moving toward his lap), he flinches and resists. A woman is shown in a bathtub covered with bubbles (we see her bare shoulders and chest); she asks her husband to shave her legs, which he does, and we see him massaging the soap onto her lower leg. A woman is shown dressing and she's wearing a girdle/foundation garment and stockings. A man alludes to his wife having an affair with another man, and a man confesses that he's having an affair with a married woman. Men and women are seen dancing at a party. A man zips up the back of a woman's dress. A man makes a pass at another man by looking at him and gesturing with his eyes. There is a reference to a married couple not having performed "the sex act" in many years, and another reference to a man not having touched his wife in some time. There are several references to a man being homosexual.

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VIOLENCE/GORE 6 - A man grabs a man, throws him onto a desk, throws him into a wall, punches him, shoves him into a window and begins choking him (he pushes him so hard against the window that it cracks); the victim stabs the aggressor in the neck, and he falls to the floor gurgling and writhing around until he dies, and we see a pool of blood forming on the floor next to him. A man is found dead underwater in his car, and there are references to his having been beaten to death first. A man is strapped into an electric chair and prepared for execution, and we see another man reaching for the lever to send the charge. There is a reference to a woman having hanged herself in prison and we find out that she was pregnant. A young woman unzips a man's fly while he's driving and tries to perform oral sex on him, he flinches and resists and drives off the road crashing the car; we see the car sailing through the air, hear the crash and then see two people in the wreckage (the man has some blood on his mouth). A man punches a man in the face and knocks him to the floor. A man has cuts and bruises on his face after a car accident, and a woman has a black eye and a scratch on her cheek, apparently after a fight in jail. A man talks about having beaten another man. A man talks about an incident during his service in the war: a soldier was apparently eaten by enemy soldiers. A man and woman are shown in a drunken stupor (the man rides a large pig and falls off into the dirt and the woman swaggers), and another man is shown inebriated a couple of times and he nearly passes out both times. In a rather gross scene a pie eating contest ends with the contestants covered with blueberries.

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LANGUAGE 4 - 1 scatological term, 3 anatomical terms, 1 sexual reference, 19 mild obscenities, 5 derogatory terms for the Japanese, 3 derogatory terms for Italians, 2 derogatory terms for Germans, 4 derogatory terms for homosexuals, 16 religious profanities, 6 insults, 10 religious exclamations.

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SUBSTANCE USE - People are seen smoking throughout the film; one character in particular has a cigarette in his mouth in almost every scene.

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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Infidelity, blackmail, embezzlement, murder, UFOs, government cover-ups, gambling, cannibalism, lying, venture capital, litigation, entrepreneurs, instincts, death penalty, the electric chair, the uncertainty principle, genealogy, homosexuality, perception and reality, chaos, dashed dreams.
MESSAGE - Looking at something changes it; the more you look at something, the more uncertain you become.
CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.



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