If a film could ever ooze indie cred, it would probably be Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes. The film, comprised of a series of vignettes, was shot over the past two decades, and at times plays like a short story collection on film. Featuring a diverse cast of actors and musicians, Jarmusch's film rises and falls with the strengths and weaknesses of his cast.
When they are clicking (see Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan's "Cousins?"), the film is a witty, awkward embodiment of everyday interaction and discussion. When they are not (see Bill Murray, RZA and GZA's "Delirium"), it suffers from a lack of direction, as well as the actors' need to indulge their star power.
Molina and Coogan use their celebrity to create an awkward, yet hilarious, scene at the table. Their dialogue is sharp, the tension is there, and their celebrity isn't the only thing going on between the two. Wu Tang and Bill Murray, however, never get past their own stardom. Murray makes valiant attempts to make a point in the film, but he frequently is interrupted by RZA and GZA, who remind the viewer again and again that, "Hey, it's Bill Murray! Bill Murray!"
The film is structured so that each vignette is separate from the others, yet the characters sometime reference previous occurrences in the film. Jarmusch never follows through on these references, however, leaving each vignette to stand on its own, rather than capitalizing on the chance to unite the themes of each segment. Vignettes like "Twins" and "Those Things'll Kill Ya" falter because they wander from the film's premise and never return.
Coffee and cigarettes unite each of the stories (well, except for when Molina and Coogan drink tea) and while it initially seems like a cheap gimmick, the comfort and reliability of the restaurant stand-bys offer a sharp contrast to the floundering interaction between their indulgers.
Coffee and Cigarettes is consistent at random points, and while its overall impact is dulled by its inconsistency, the strong vignettes outweigh the bad ones.