This black-and-white confection written and directed by Jim Jarmusch offers a whimsical glimpse of American envy, addiction, humor, and pop culture. It consists of a short vignettes centered around the universal past-time of sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes, even though we all know that both habits are harmful to our health. Jarmusch is a master at discerning the movements of the soul in the small and seeming inconsequential activities of our lives.
The fun begins with an encounter over coffee between Italian director Roberto Benigni and stand-up comic Steven Wright. The latter says he likes cigarettes because they make his dreams go faster. Not understanding English very well, the foreigner volunteers to go to the dentist for his new friend.
In the second vignette, Steve Buscemi interrupts the conversation between Cinque and Joie Lee with a spiel about Elvis' twin brother. Interruption is also the name of the game in another piece where a very uptight young woman gets irritated when an intrusive waiter keeps filling her cup and throwing off her carefully created balance of coffee, sugar, cream and temperature. People have their own java rituals and they want things the way they want them.
Does caffeine draw out our ire like liquor does? Maybe so, say two other vignettes. In California, pop singers Iggy Pop and Tom Waits get together and smoke some cigarettes even though Waits claims to have quit. They are in competition with each other, and this toxin underlies their chatter. Even a casual suggestion that Waits hear a drummer Iggy has met is greeted with defensive posturing. In another diner, Isaach de Bankole has come to meet his friend Alex Descas. When they can't find anything to talk about, Isaach becomes convinced that something is wrong, and he can't be convinced otherwise.
In one of the best pieces, British actor Alfred Molina sits down for tea and cigarettes with British comedian Steve Coogan, and they trade compliments. But when Molina suggests that they may be relatives and should work together, Coogan tries to politely brush him off until he finds out that Molina has a Hollywood connection he'd like as well.
Envy is the barrier that causes problems between a famous actress and her poor cousin, a rock musician. Cate Blanchett does wonders playing both characters. Bill Murray shows up at the table of two rap stars (Rza and Gza of Wu Tang) and does his thing with coffee and comedy.
There are many delights in these brief portraits of a very popular and established ritual in American life.
The DVD's extras are the music video "Midnight Jam" by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, an outtake with Bill Murray, and the trailer.