Friday, September 12, 2008

Frances McDormand Will Have Her Revenge


JA from MNPP here, sharing in Nat's excitement about today's release of the latest Coen Bros. flick, Burn After Reading. I was just now reading Manohla Dargis' (not particularly kind) review at The New York Times and took note of this comment:

"The biggest punch line is Linda, whom Ms. McDormand plays with a grin that tends to look more like a grimace, perhaps because she’s been saddled with yet another one of the Coens’ ghastly pageboy dos. (Really? Again?) It’s a punishing look for a cruelly unflattering character whose narcissism is matched only by her witlessness."

Ouch. I mostly took note of this because the purported sadism directed at McDormand's character was also a big part of the review at Slate that I read yesterday. I haven't seen the movie yet - I have my tickets for tonight though! - so I can't say whether this claim holds true or not. But Dargis' swipe at the "ghastly pageboy do" immediately reminded me of Julianne Moore's turn in The Big Lebowski (aka Juli's one successful stab at comedy) for me:

And from there I started thinking about all the looks that McDormand has worn for her husband and bro-in-law. With Burn After Reading, she's now been in six of their films (seven if you count some voice-over in Barton Fink), and lord knows there's nothing better that The Coens love than a silly wig or accent or the like (I say that with love). Whatever has this poor woman been saddled with? Let's look at how they've envisioned McDormand over the years:

(Top Row, left to right: Abby, Blood Simple (1984); Dot, Raising Arizona (1987); The Mayor's Secretary, Miller's Crossing (1990). Bottom Row, left to right: Marge Gunderson, Fargo (1996); Doris Crane, The Man Who Wasn't There (2001); Linda Litzke, Burn After Reading (2008))

Ya know, save poor Dot and that dead possum on her head, I'd say the Brothers Coen have actually been pretty decent to Frances and her on-screen incarnations so far, wouldn't you? It could've been worse at least. She hasn't really had to weather anything like this:

That's intolerable cruelty, that is.


Dantaniel said...

Yeah, it's interesting to look at how they've used her over the years. I guess the whole wig + accent thing is pretty much the combination required for Coen bros female characters...

As for Javier Bardem's look in No Country, it's not THAT bad.

Jason Adams said...

Well it did win him an Oscar, so it most definitely had its positives.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Well, Doubt doesn't look that great. Meryl looks awesome is usual.

I'm afraid Amy Adams looks the worst, the same Wide-Eyed Naive character that she always plays. It just doesn't seem right for this movie. We'll see :-/



i think she looked good in BURN (it's part of the joke that she thinks she's so much less attractive than she is) but maybe i'm just reacting to seeing her for the first time in person last year (at a NO COUNTRY party)... she looked way prettier than she usually does on screen. The life force she has onscreen totally transfers to vivaciousness off (or so it seemed from a distance)

but that said, she was easily the most unattractive character in the movie personality wise. Very funny at first but eventually so hateable in a way.

strange movie. still tryin' to wrap the head around.

ja it did help. that's fer sure

Catherine said...

I don't think the Coens are overly mean to Frances McDormand. I mean, they kind of punish everyone in all of their movies (with, actually, the exception of Marge in Fargo). This doesn't open here for a little while yet, but I cannot wait for it.

Cluster Funk said...

Totally agree. Linda was completely narcissistic and self-absorbed. Damn funny, too, but I didn't feel for her.

Cluster Funk said...

P.S. Was this not the most baffling ending to a movie ever? So abrupt/random.


see I loved the ending -- it nailed that very abstract buerocracy hell comedy I think they were going for (not really sure) ... but still it's not totally satisfying on other levels i agree.

i don't think BAR totally works but it definitely has its moments.