Even when the script is willfully wrong—locating Santa Rosa as being "up" from Sacramento and "down" from San Francisco, or presenting California's method of execution as the electric chair instead of the gas chamber—the results are more playful than distracting. Far beyond their customary knowing winks and nods aimed at aficionados, the Coens have resurrected a hardscrabble California of wooden porches and gravel driveways, of rolling, oak-wreathed hills and one-lane roads, and of a restless people whose meager dreams are wrecked the moment money, sex or a bottle get in the way. Never has the past seemed so familiar.
The Man Who Wasn't There was directed by Joel Coen; written by Joel and Ethan Coen; produced by Ethan Coen; and stars Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini and Katherine Borowitz. Now playing at Edwards South Coast Village, Santa Ana.