Picks and Pans Review: Coffee and Cigarettes

updated 05/31/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/31/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Jack White

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Even if savored and lingered over in a café too cool to notice time, no cigarette or cup of joe lasts as long as it took director-writer Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) to make this fitfully engaging film. He spent 17 years, off and on, shooting these 11 black-and-white episodes. The first, starring stand-up comic Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni, originally aired on Saturday Night Live in 1986. As in the segments that follow, its characters (mostly) bear the same first names as the actors playing them and spend their time together downing coffee and inhaling tobacco while discussing life, dentists and other topics both common and obscure.

The result is hit and miss. When it works, the film is an offbeat delight. The three vignettes with the most zing feature the biggest names: Blanchett scores in dual roles as her movie star self and a ne'er-do-well cousin; Murray clowns while guzzling coffee straight from the pot; and English actors Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan, as themselves, have an encounter in L.A. that distills all that's phony about Hollywood friendships. When other episodes dawdle or go nowhere, C&C becomes wake-me-when-it's-over art-house prattle. (R)


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