In The Brothers Grim: The Films of Ethan and Joel Coen, Erica Rowell unmasks the filmmakers as prankster myth makers exploiting and subverting universal storytelling modes to further what seems to be their artistic agenda: to elicit laughs. Often employing satire and allegory, the Coens' movies hold a mirror up to American society, allowing viewers to both chuckle and gasp at its absurdities, hypocrisies, and foibles.
From business partnerships (Blood Simple, The Ladykillers) to marriage (Intolerable Cruelty) to friendship and ethics (Miller's Crossing), the breakdowns of relationships are a steady focus in their work. Often the Coens' satires put broken social institutions in their cinematic crosshairs, exposing cracks in ineffective penal systems (Raising Arizona; O Brother, Where Art Thou? ), unjust justice systems (The Man Who Wasn't There), a crooked corporate America (The Hudsucker Proxy), unnecessary wars (The Big Lebowski)
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