One of the good things about the current situation and the isolation that goes on with it is the great films that are being shown. ITV4 in the UK showed one of the modern day classics recently and it’s only when you see it; after perhaps not having seen it for a while, that you realise just how good it is. The thing about the Coen brothers and the sort of films that they make is that they speak of an America that very few had seen up until then. The film sees amateur kidnappers Carl Showalter, played by Steve Buscemi and Gaear Grimsrud, played by Peter Stormare, leave a trail of dead bodies in their attempts, on their trail is however is police chief Frances McDormand, who despite being heavily pregnant, is dogged in her determination to catch the culprits.
What sets the Coens aside from other film makes is that they expose the deep underbelly of a country often glamourized and glorified through the lens of the film camera. The brothers auteur tell the stories of the lonesome and forgotten, the downtrodden ordinary people of the United States and make their stories quirky and entertaining. They manage to applaud the conventions of the american frontier and how it has come to be seen by cinema audiences and also turn those assumptions on their heads all at the same time.
The people that appear in their films are neither “goodies” or “badies” in the conventional sense, they are merely ordinary and every day. As audiences we are constantly looking for heroes and villains but in the world of the Coens everyone is neither black nor white but a more realistic bland grey. Despite this many of the characters that the Coens create are more colourful and eccentric than many others which have appeared before or since. Characters such as Jeff Bridge’s Big Lebowski, or in this case the kidnappers are the very epitome of the anti-hero. As such audiences find these characters relatable exactly because of their ordinariness, because of their blandness. We look beyond their flaws and it is exactly because of this that we find them relatable. It’s not necessarily the case that we would do or say the same things as many of these characters, but because they are seen in a certain light the average audience member can relate to them.
In the case of the two kidnappers, we have a certain amount of sympathy for them as an audience, not because we want them to succeed but because of their relative haplessness as opposed to more sinister counterparts.