The Big White Movie Review
Well, one that I know of.
The Big White's marketing problems almost without question relate to its similarity to Fargo -- a film you never want to try to go head to head against. Williams plays a financially distraught travel agent named Paul. Desperate for cash (and Tourette's-suffering wife Margaret (Hunter) is no help), he lucks out when he comes across a dead body in a Dumpster, takes out a quickie life insurance policy on his long-lost brother, then puts bacon on his face and leaves him to the wolves. The cops find a faceless body with the brother's ID, and Paul tries to collect. But soon the thugs (Tim Blake Nelson and W. Earl Brown) come looking for their body, track him to Paul, and the hijinks begin. Meanwhile, the insurance agent (Giovanni Ribisi) is on to him, and the real brother (Harrelson) unexpectedly returns from a permanent state of drugged-out missing... and everyone wants a piece of the cash. And incidentally, it all takes place in the frozen land of Alaska (though Manitoba subs for the U.S. state).
Sound familiar? There's no way to review this frozen double-cross story without thinking of Fargo every step of the way. Williams even seems to be aping Wililam H. Macy in his continuing quest for credibility as a "serious" actor. And he pulls it off. The Big White is a very good and underrated little movie, full of black comedy, clever coincidences and plot twists, and fun performances from Hunter, Harrelson, and Alison Lohman as Ribisi's telephone psychic girlfriend.
And yet it is so very familiar. Director Mark Mylod (best known for doing the Ali G Indahouse TV show) and writer Collin Friesen (who made a film called Farm Sluts) are slaves to the Coen brothers. Great mentors yes, but The Big White loses too many points for originality, to the degree where it eventually starts to feel like a derivative instead of an homage.
Did I mention Fargo yet? Just checking.