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flick pick | Coffee and Cigarettes 2003
Directed + written by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett, Steve Coogan, Alfred Molina, RZA, Bill Murray
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: comedy, drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: darkly comic, hip, witty
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Coffee and Cigarettes consists of a series of black-and-white shorts centering around casual conversations. The conversations take place in coffee shops and cafes, bars and even a fancy hotel, in random places all across America. Loquacious Italian comedian Roberto Benigni sits down for some coffee with laconic American comedian Steven Wright, with each seemingly thinking and talking on separate tracks, never able to get on the same page and understand one another. In a slightly seedy California bar, Iggy Pop is about to meet Tom Waits for the first time; when Waits shows up, he proceeds to toy with the overly earnest Pop. Also in California, Alfred Molina excitedly informs a thoroughly disinterested Steve Coogan that they're actually long-lost cousins. Coogan barely bothers to hide the fact that he doesn't find Molina sufficiently famous to bother getting to know -- until Molina gets a call from Spike Jonze, and Coogan suddenly perks up. Very famous Cate Blanchett, meanwhile, tries her best to squeeze in some quality time with her rather rough-edged cousin Shelley (Blanchett again, in a nifty double role), ducking out from between interviews with the press in a sincere but unsuccessful effort to play catch-up. In these and several other vignettes, musicians, comedians, actors and other quirky characters try (and mostly fail) to connect as they share mundane conversation over those favorite time-killers, coffee and cigarettes.

Review Featuring a who's who of indie coolness in its cast, Coffee and Cigarettes could have been too hip for its own good. But there's such a nice, easy rhythm to this series of vignettes, a stripped-down simplicity to the way scenes are shot, that you never get the sense that writer-director Jim Jarmusch is taking any of it too seriously. Conversations unfold weirdly but kind of naturally; nothing feels scripted to make some heavy-handed, overarching point. Taken as a whole, the vignettes seem to be saying something about how verbal communications so often fail to get across anything real or meaningful. But mostly, these shorts are just funny, poking gentle fun at celebrity even as it allows its (largely) celebrity cast to show that they're just regular folks at heart. True, some of the sections work better than others -- a very wooden segment featuring Jack and Meg White debating pointlessly about a Tesla coil falls completely flat, all the more so because the segment comes right after Cate Blanchett's very funny, brilliantly-acted segment in which she plays both herself and a character who's supposed to be her cousin. But there are so many great, truly inspired pairings scattered throughout Coffee and Cigarettes that they more than make up for the less interesting conversations (best of all, since each segment is so short, we're at least spared having to sit too long through any dull bits). If you're at all curious about what the RZA and the GZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame) might talk about if they happened to bump into Bill Murray -- and you should be, as it's very amusing stuff indeed -- you'll have a good time watching Jarmusch's witty, unpretentious little film. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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