Book Title: The Coen Brothers, Second Edition
Author: Ronald Bergan
Style: Chapter book
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Non-Fiction, Biography, Media
Page Count: 360
Format: Paperback (Library)
Reading time: 6 hours
Date Finished: 2/18/17
Click here to find it on Amazon (New window)
My impressions: Ugh. If you’ve followed my progress reports, you’ve likely noticed that I’ve been trying to finish this book for awhile. It should have been an enjoyable read for me – I have seen and loved most of Joel and Ethan Coens’ films (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Miller’s Crossing, Blood Simple and True Grit among them), but it turns out that reading about these films isn’t anywhere near as exciting as watching them.
For this, I partially fault the author, who starts off with a lot of self-indulgent commentary and then examines the Coens film by film in a manner that reads like a really long Wikipedia article, but without the necessary hyperlinks to look up citations. A lot of the book is spent referring to scenes from Coen Brothers films or from the movies that inspired them (a lot of old Hollywood stuff which is probably unfamiliar to anyone younger than the Coens) in a manner that not only lacks much insight into what makes these movies (or their creators) tick, but which is also a dreadful slough to get through.
The second edition also really peters out towards the end with far less information and detail on more recent films. Too much of it is surface-level stuff, with very little information beyond things that have been said in interviews. You can tell where the better-research first edition ended; the quality of information drastically reduces as we near 2016 when this new edition came out.
I don’t have much else to say. I’d rather watch the Coen Brothers’ work than read about them. Based on this book, I suspect they feel the same way, and simply indulged the biographer because he was such a fan who was going to write a book anyway that they wanted to ensure he got the details right. Even the people he interviewed seem a bit cagey in places, as if they don’t really want to talk about these two remarkable filmmakers because both men project such an aura of unremarkability. That insight itself is fascinating, but hardly worth a book to discover.
A far better deconstruction of the Coen Brothers is the show Fargo on the FX Network, which is really an amalgamation of all of their films wrapped up into a beautiful new series. I recommend that instead.