Love of idiocy
One thing is certain: Ethan and Joel Coen have a special affection for idiots. In 30 years of career, the duo has served us a whole gallery of characters presenting this particularity. From Nicolas Cage in Arizona Junior, whose emptiness in his eyes is matched only by his thoughtless impulsiveness, to Ladykillers’ team of broken arms, the duo delight in building protagonists as stupid as each other. Even their seemingly less stupid heroes have an element of naivety which does not help their case. William H. Macy in Fargo or Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man are the perfect example: their candor makes them victims of others, easily manipulated, characters who escape everything because they are faced with more insane and impressive than them. However, it should be clarified that the brothers do not insist on writing the roles of morons just for the principle. Their characters are much more complex and above all make it possible to see certain renowned actors in a different light, to discover in them a talent for comedy that is sometimes unsuspected.
Everett, Miles and Harry
If the brothers have always liked to work on the character of the loser, they have composed, in an informal way, a “trilogy of the Idiots”. This is how Ethan Coen describes the ensemble formed by O’Brother, Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading. A priori, no link between them except George Clooney, who plays there each time a high-level idiot. The directors have also repeatedly prided themselves on the boundless pleasure they experience in creating these roles for the actor. In an interview with Empire, the main interested party spoke on the subject: “They revel in the idiocy of others. But listen: what better way to tell a story? Most stories deeply have some kind of idiot causing the problems …“
The subtlety of the Coen brothers was, however, to compose three characters with nuanced stupidity: the hero of O’Brother with the blank eyes and the slicked-back hair is rather simplet, that of Intolerable Cruelty is not a loser but a swagger obsessed with his teeth whose over-confidence will precipitate his downfall, and that of Burn After Reading is stupid but much less sympathetic than the other two. If Clooney thought he was done after this third collaboration, we still cannot rule out Ave, César! released in 2016 in which the actor returns to a role in the lineage of the previous ones. “I played four big idiots for them. After Burn After Reading, I thought I had completed my Idiots trilogy, and then they came up with Ave, César !, which is even dumber than the others. They just love to play with it, they love helpful idiots.“