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Holy Ghost People

Holy Ghost People examines two sisters whose bond is torn — but by what? After her sibling has been missing for more than a year, Charlotte (Emma Greenwell, TV's Shameless) intends to find out.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

No Holds Barred

RLJ Entertainment's new Blu-ray for No Holds Barred begins with what seems like dozens of trailers for movies starring pro wrestlers from the WWE talent pool. Each flick went direct to home video, but once upon a time — aka 1989 — one had to go to the multiplex to catch such a spectacle.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Knights of Badassdom

In 2008, the third act of the guy comedy Role Models used LARPing — live-action role-playing, that is — as a backdrop for our protagonists' lessons learned. Today, Knights of Badassdom extends that half-hour into a full feature, to the point where viewers are left not smiling, but exhausted. 
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Switched on

Not everything on television has to appeal to mass audiences. In fact, with the further fractioning of viewership thanks to alternatives like Netflix and VOD, more series can afford to become more niche. Here are five examples of shows both past and present — and new to DVD and/or Blu-ray — that encompass some of the more outrageous ideas ever to go beyond boardroom discussion.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Confession of Murder

Seventeen years after slaying 10 women and getting away with it, the charismatic serial killer Du-sok (Park Si-hoo) comes clean with a Confession of Murder, in this 2012 South Korean crime thriller. He does so by publishing a book that dishes all the grisly details.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Movies · Drama · Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen brothers’ new film is a heady, heartfelt character study and period piece. In other words, quintessential Coen.

Zach Hale December 17th, 2013

The album artwork for 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was nothing if not iconic. The image of a young Dylan with then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo clinging to his side, walking down a snow-covered street in New York’s Greenwich Village embodied the early ’60s folk movement like no other. It’s also where Inside Llewyn Davis makes its music.

There are several shots in Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest that (intentionally) offer a similar imagery, only with one very significant difference: Its protagonist, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac, Drive), is a lone wolf in the truest sense — aloof, misunderstood and tragically unsuccessful in his personal and professional endeavors.

Set in 1961, the film opens in a dimly lit, smoke-filled Gaslight Cafe as Llewyn sings a striking rendition of “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” — a song by Dave Van Ronk, on whom his character is loosely based. Its stark lyrics capture the essence of his character: a traveling troubadour with a troubled past haunted by the absence of a clearly defined legacy.

Llewyn has no home but couch surfs with acquaintances, relying on the good will of others as a result of his stagnating career. Chief among them is Jean (Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby) who begrudges Llewyn though she is pregnant with his child. She, too, is a folk singer, teaming up with her current love interest, Jim (Justin Timberlake, Friends with Benefits); but she owns a decidedly more cautionary life perspective, urging Llewyn to adopt something similar.

Instead, Llewyn embarks on a precipitous journey to Chicago, where he intends to hand-deliver his solo record to producer Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham, Dead Man Down). With a cat he accidentally acquired from the Gorfeins — an older couple who occasionally provide him with room and board — Llewyn hitches a ride with jazz musicians Johnny Five (Garret Hudland, TRON: Legacy) and Roland Turner (John Goodman, Argo). In this tense but often humorous road trip, it is revealed that Llewyn’s former bandmate, Mike, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, a crucial element in defining Davis’ past and, thus, his character.

As its title implies, Inside Llewyn Davis is, above all, a character study — a musing on the burdens of dedication to a craft and the internal demons that come along with it. Isaac gives a stellar performance, not just from a musical perspective (the guy can really sing) but in his portrayal of a character who communicates with and elicits sympathy from the audience better than he can anyone in the film.

The Coens, meanwhile, explore his detached individualism with the superior depth, bravado and eccentricity that we’ve come to expect from the duo. Both the soundtrack — curated by folk musician T-Bone Burnett — and cinematography play an integral role in establishing tone: cold and damp, with a persistent darkness looming over it. It’s easily their most melancholy work to date, but it’s also profoundly engaging.

You don’t have to be a fan of folk music to appreciate Inside Llewyn Davis, as its focus is less on songs than the vessel that is delivering them. Rather, in a movement that was defined by outwardly political subject matter, the Coens delve deep inside the mind of a societal pariah who, unlike Dylan, wages his war from the inside.

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