Set in a sleepy Northern California town in the 1940s, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There stars Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane, a humble barber who suspects his hard-hearted and hard-drinking wife Doris (Frances McDormand) of having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini). When a jocular stranger (Jon Polito) breezes into town hinting at the fortune to be made investing in an outlandish-sounding new invention called dry cleaning, Ed hatches a blackmail scheme he hopes will make him rich and get him some revenge at the same time. His plan goes horribly awry when he accidentally commits a murder for which Doris ends up being blamed, landing her in the slammer and Ed at the mercy of blowhard big-city lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider (Tony Shalhoub). Filmed in black-and-white by three-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, The Man Who Wasn't There was inspired by the seedy crime novels of James M. Cain, putting a distinctly Coen brothers' spin on the film noir tradition. Though spiked with their characteristic humor, its moody atmosphere hearkens back to the darker moments of Blood Simple and Fargo -- a marked departure from the high-spirited slapstick of O Brother Where Art Thou.
by Tom Vick synopsis