Movie Review: “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Starring
Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Adam Driver
Director
Joel & Ethan Coen

There aren’t many directors that can boast a track record as impressive as the one that Joel and Ethan Coen have enjoyed throughout their 30-year careers, and “Inside Llewyn Davis” is just another notch on that cinematic belt. Markedly different from a lot of their films in that it’s a much more intimate, character-driven piece, “Inside Llewyn Davis” most closely resembles “A Serious Man” in both tone and execution. But although the movie is a fairly bittersweet portrait of personal failure (a running theme in the Coens’ repertoire), it’s not without their trademark wit and humor. The comedy may not be as pronounced as in the duo’s other films, but it’s yet another fine period drama that showcases a different side of the directors.

Set during the early 1960s in the middle of the New York folk scene, the movie stars Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis, a struggling musician trying to make it as a solo artist after his former singing partner commits suicide. The music business is already difficult enough to break into, but even more so for the hard-to-market folk genre, despite Llewyn’s obvious talent. With no steady income or plans for the future, Llewyn spends his days wandering the city in search of his next gig and his nights crashing on friends’ couches, including musician couple Jean (Carey Mulligan) and Jim (Justin Timberlake), the former of whom Llewyn may or may not have gotten pregnant. Desperate to get out of town for a few days, Llewyn hitches a ride to Chicago to audition for legendary manager Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham).

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Movie Review: “The Great Gatsby”

Starring
Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton
Director
Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann was born to make “The Great Gatsby.” Dazzling excess, star-crossed lovers, and tragedy are the cornerstones to nearly every movie he’s ever made, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel has all three in abundance, wrapped in a searing indictment of the pursuit of wealth. All four of those elements of the story are on full display here, but there’s something missing in the execution. For a story with so much passion and longing and regret, it’s surprisingly bloodless. This is not to say that Luhrmann doesn’t hit the emotional buttons; he just doesn’t hit them hard enough. Then again, that may not be Luhrmann’s fault at all, but the source material. A bunch of clueless people ruining their lives by making bad decision after bad decision; it’s like a Mike Leigh movie, with money.

Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is in a sanitarium for a laundry list of conditions (top of the list: morbid alcoholism), and soon begins telling his shrink about the summer of 1922. Nick had taken a job as a bond salesman during the Roaring Twenties, and found a small cottage in the village of West Egg, where he lived next to new-money millionaires. Nick’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) lives across the bay from her, and is (unhappily) married to old-money millionaire and unfaithful thug Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). The man who lives next door to Nick is a mysterious fellow named Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Jay would throw massive parties every weekend, but his reason for doing so was surprisingly sweet: he hoped that one day Daisy would attend one of them. Daisy was Gatsby’s girl five years earlier, and once Jay discovers that Nick and Daisy are related, he asks Nick to invite Daisy over for tea. This sets in motion a chain of events that would change the lives of all concerned.

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