starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits
written and directed by Jim Jarmusch
by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Near the end of Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die, Centerville police chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray)--probably named after legendary everyman actor Cliff Robertson just because--intones to his deputy Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver)--probably named after legendary Formula 1 driver Ronnie Peterson just because--that Jim Jarmusch is a dick. He's responding to Ronnie's revelation that Jim has let him read the entire script while only letting Cliff read certain scenes. Luigi Pirandello did shit like this in his exhausting, wall-breaking, self-referential stuff. He believed the actor would inevitably break with the text and so, in his most famous play, "Six Characters in Search of an Author", he has them reject their script and question their existence. A forerunner to the Theatre of the Absurd, Pirandello was held in some esteem (and met with an equal amount of suspicion) by Mussolini--you can read into the rebellion of his fictional characters from their fictional circumstances a hint of his true allegiances. It's timely, given our current fascist circumstances, for Jarmusch to evoke Pirandello, I guess, and other modern examples like Daffy Duck's "Duck Amuck" short and Grant Morrison's "Coyote Gospel" one-shot in the late-'90s Vertigo run of "Animal Man" support the playwright's case for immortality. But it's hard to get too excited when the execution is this pleased with itself. The conceit (much like when Moriarty became sentient on the Holodeck in that one episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation") is ever in danger of pomposity and self-parody. Jarmusch, who already mucks around in narrative grey areas--such as conceiving of a poet/bus driver named Paterson who lives in Paterson, NJ and reveres a book of poetry by William Carlos Williams called, that's right, Paterson--doesn't need to get so granular about it. The Dead Don't Die plays an awful lot like Jarmusch explaining Jarmusch to a slow child.