the most major of the minor films of the Coen brothers?

Accustomed to praise, Joel and Ethan Coen collide with Ladykillers to the dislike of the public and the critics. A very sad fate for this comedy which does not lack assets.

While the characters in their films regularly have bad luck, here they are in turn victims of the same misfortune. With their eleventh feature film, Joel and Ethan Coen seem to confirm, at least on paper, their disaffection for more personal projects.

After the relatively lukewarm reception given to their previous film intolerable cruelty, a Universal production, they again respond favorably to a commission proposal, this time under the leadership of the big-eared firm, the aptly named Walt Disney Company. But that’s not all, here they are also embarked on their very first remake, a modernized version of lady killers by Alexander Mackendrick, a classic of British cinema dating from 1955. How then can we hope to impose their style in the hands of the studios and above all to compete with one of the jewels of crime comedy?

Presented in the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, Ladykillers convinces the profession very moderately and without being an oven in theaters, even if the receipts generated on American soil exceed in extremis the initial outlay (39 million at the US box office for 35 million budget), it can reasonably be considered as a failure. No matter, the Coen brothers do not feel obliged to do anything, nor to repeat their past successes, Fargo and The Big Lebowski in mind, nor to reach a new milestone with each film.

From this freedom, dare we say lightness, comes Ladykillers which, under its air of pure recreation, conceals some hidden treasures that it would be regrettable to ignore.

Hostilities can begin


The first change and not the least, the remake relocates the action of the original work to the heart of contemporary Louisiana instead of the London of the 1950s. A desire clearly displayed by the Coen brothers from the start of the project in the as far as their attachment to the southern United States has always been central to their films, with some exceptions. Does this distort the very essence of the story? Not completely.

Here again, it is the story of an old lady, a widow, who rents one of her rooms to a mysterious stranger, an erudite professor with sophisticated manners. The latter tells his landlady that he is part of a musical ensemble and that he is still looking for a place to rehearse with his fellow musicians. A bit of a music lover, the old lady agrees to welcome the rest of the troupe under her roof. Claiming affinities with ” music composed to the glory of God », the professor and his acolytes are actually pursuing a much less spiritual plan: to execute a hold-up worthy of the greatest heists in history.

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