Coffee and cigarettes. What is it about this magical combination of caffeine and cancer that's so irresistible to millions of café and pub patrons around the world? Despite its title, don't go looking to Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes for the answer. A series of vignettes populated by an all-star cast of actors and musicians, the film has the laid-back attitude of its tobacco-smoking, java-gulping protagonists, each of whom spends his screen time ruminating on a host of arbitrary issues involving class, race, and physics. However, like its central delicacy, Jarmusch's comedy is apt to provide a slight, delectable buzz but little nutritional value.
Jarmusch enlists a diverse cast of indie stars and former colleagues for this modest ensemble, but his uncharacteristically wheezy writing frequently undermines the film's wry humor. Cate Blanchett, in a dual performance, plays an arrogant version of herself as well as her skuzzy, jealous cousin, but the piece's portrait of jealousy and resentment loses steam after you become accustomed to seeing the actress talk to herself. Similarly, The White Stripes' Meg and Jack White provide a brief lesson on inventor Nikola Tesla's Tesla Coil, but save for the creepy, Mao Tse-tung-inspired portrait of Lee Marvin hanging on the wall behind them, the skit is nothing more than an overly long non sequitur. And even a brief appearance by Steve Buscemi can't rescue an insipid bit about two argumentative African-American twins talking racial politics in a Memphis diner.
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