The Ladykillers: Coens' Second Period (Part Two)

The Ladykillers: Coens' Second Period (Part Two)

Another reason this weird crime film works is that it’s a heist flick that awkwardly gives its viewers some moral advice. The awkward part comes as a result of the character that levies wisdom on us, but is subsequently shown to be daft enough to off himself.

Ryan Hurst’s Lump Hudson character isn’t full on retard, although, it’s close. But after the heist is all said and done, there’s a murder that needs to be taken care of. Lump just doesn’t want to be a part of it and instead preaches that a properly lived life is what all involved should be aiming for. Of course, moments later he shoots himself in the face. So either the Coens’ realize what a fantasy world the character is describing or they just find self inflicted pain to be hilarious. Maybe it’s both.

This conceptual backing works to link The Ladykillers back to an earlier period of the Coens’ career. Much as with Raising Arizona, during which viewers don’t know who the bad guy actually is, this film turns expectations upside down. So while there was a cop engaged in kidnapping in that earlier feature, here we get a crook moralizing. Interesting thread.

But this is a moral tale, regardless of whether or not Mountain Girl represents a huge nod to Deadheads. The entire film is predicated on fooling a church going woman who’s still devoted to her deceased husband. And after the deed is done, she’s been fooled well enough – even if she accidentally stumbles on to the truth – the crooks all seem to fall away, leaving Marva with over a million dollars. She obviously sees fit to donate the entirety of that sum to Bob Jones University.

The pervasive mention of that down home bible college has to mean something. Being criticized for some racist shenanigans, it’s somewhat confusing as to why Marva’s so enthralled by the institution. She does love Christianity, though. So maybe there’s nothing to read into.

Another problematic inclusion here – one that crops up over and over again – is Edgar Allen Poe. From the very beginning of the film where Hanks’ character quotes the poet, to a middle passage where he’s necessitated to entertain some church people with his literary prowess, to the final moments of his life where the good professor notices a raven, Poe’s left a huge foot print here. Any speculation about it all might have something to do with the writer almost being Southern – Baltimore’s kind of in between. But maybe there’s something more. Maybe not.

As with the pair’s most recent films, though, music factors in pretty heavily. The already mentioned “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” references serve to root the film in a specific time and place. But in order to properly create the atmosphere present in a small Southern town, there had to be some soul, gospel and blues.

Blind Willie Johnson, a street preacher, closes out the film with "Let Your Light Shine on Me." The film’s conclusion would certainly be met with approval from Marvva just based upon its musical selection.