Roberto Benigni as Roberto
Steven Wright as Steven
Joie Lee as Good Twin
Cinqué Lee as Evil Twin/Kitchen Guy
Steve Buscemi as Waiter
Iggy Pop as Iggy
Tom Waits as Tom
Joseph Rigano as Joe
Vinny Vella as Vinny
Vinny Vella Jr. as Vinny Jr.
Renee French as Renée
E.J. Rodriguez as Waiter
Alex Descas as Alex
Isaach De Bankolé as Isaach
Cate Blanchett as Cate/Shelly
Mike Hogan as Waiter
Jack White as Jack
Meg White as Meg
Alfred Molina as Alfred
Steve Coogan as Steve
Katy Hansz as Katy
Genius/GZA as GZA
RZA as RZA
Bill Murray as Bill Murray
William Rice as Bill
Taylor Mead as Taylor
Bill Murray Outtake
Taylor Mead interview
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French, English and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 37 Minutes
Coffee and Cigarettes is a collection of 11 short films by Jim Jarmusch. Shot over a period of 17 years, they all feature characters talking over coffee and cigarettes. It’s a comedic look at how strangers, family, and friends interact while partaking in addictive pleasures. Each short features well known and not so well known celebrities playing themselves (and in some cases other characters).
Coffee and Cigarettes is rated R for language.
I found Coffee and Cigarettes to be a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the shorts were mildly amusing. Other pieces were downright boring. Unfortunately there were more misses than hits.
I had four favorites out of the series. The first was one featuring Steve Buscemi as an annoying waiter serving twins Joie Lee and Cinqué Lee. His first question for them? “Which one is the good twin and which one is the evil twin?” For some reason that cracked me up. He then goes on to say how he thought Elvis was replaced by his evil twin. Another favorite was one featuring Cate Blanchett. She plays herself and her own jealous cousin, Shelly. Not only is the dialogue amusing, but Cate demonstrates her amazing acting abilities. Her entire demeanor is so transformed that you wouldn’t know they were the same woman if they weren’t identical. Alfred Molina is also funny in a piece with British comic Steve Coogan. In this one Molina reveals to an unimpressed Coogan that they are actually distantly related. The last one I enjoyed featured the bizarre pairing of GZA and RZA (from the Wu Tang Clan) with Bill Murray. Inexplicably, Murray is shown working undercover as a waiter in a diner. GZA and RZA lecture him on the hazards of nicotine and caffeine. I think these shorts had the most to offer, but as good as they were, they only generated a few chuckles.
The rest of the shorts are not impressive at all. The dialogue is either weak or lacking, they aren’t funny, or they are simply very boring. They drag the rest of the film down enough that I wouldn’t recommend investing the hour and a half watching it.
The making of the film is quite unique, though. Our own Edward Douglas explains it well: “In 1986, Jim Jarmusch was asked by Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels to direct a short film for the show. The result of that request, a film called “Coffee and Cigarettes” featured Italian film star Roberto Benigni and comic Steven Wright having a strange meeting in a coffeehouse. While shooting Mystery Train three years later, Jarmusch filmed another short with Steve Buscemi and Joie and Cinque Lee, and a few years after that, he did a third with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits. The shorts were originally done for the film festival circuit, but in 2003, Jarmusch decided to compile those shorts into a feature length piece, filming six more films using similar themes. Coffee and Cigarettes is a culmination of eighteen years of these short films.” I find it interesting that Roberto Benigni was filmed for this long before he won the Academy Award and Steven Wright has almost disappeared from the spotlight. That really emphasizes how long it has been in production.
I liked the soundtrack, too. The film opens with a unique rendition of “Louie, Louie”. The lyrics are actually intelligible, for once. The rest of the soundtrack is a unique blend of jazz, rock, and music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
In the end, though, Coffee and Cigarettes is a good idea that just didn’t pan out entirely. There’s good and bad here, but it just isn’t good enough for me to recommend. However, I think this one ends up being more for the art house crowd than mainstream audiences. It’s got just the right mixture of character study and artistry to be up their alley.
There isn’t much in the way of extras here:
“Tabletops” In each of the shorts, there’s an overhead camera aimed at the table that the actors sit around. It has coffee and cigarettes on it, of course. Footage from these cameras is played while music plays. It ends up being a 3 or so minute music video. It’s a catchy tune but a boring video.
Bill Murray Outtake This outtake is around 30 seconds long and just has Murray walking in and clowning around at the end of a scene. Not much here, really.
Taylor Mead interview I have no idea who Taylor Mead is, but he’s definitely flamboyant. Dressed in bizarre attire, he sings his own praises, plugs other movies he’s working on, and discusses Coffee and Cigarettes (which he is an actor in). I really got nothing out of this and I don’t think he had much insight to offer.
The Bottom Line:
Unless you love independent films or art house movies, I recommend you avoid Coffee and Cigarettes. Despite the fact that it stars Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina, Steve Buscemi, and other favorites, there’s not a lot here to make it worth investing your time in.