Coen Bros. Musical Chronicles A Week In The Life Of Fledgling Folksinger
It’s Greenwich Village in the middle of the winter of 1961, and Llewyn Davis (Oscar Issac) is so down on his luck that he can’t afford an overcoat, let alone a place to live. The fledgling folksinger’s fortunes have gone into a tailspin ever since the other half of his musical duo committed suicide in spite of the modest success of their debut album, If We Had Wings.
Nowadays, Llewyn devotes less time to launching his solo career than looking for the next place to spend the night. For, the feckless freeloader really knows how to wear out his welcome, whether by letting his hosts’ (Ethan Phillips and Robin Bartlett) house cat escape onto the street, or by sleeping with the wife (Carey Mulligan) of a pal (Justin Timberlake) who let him crash on the couch.
The plot thickens when Jean let’s Llewyn know she’s pregnant and doesn’t know whether he or her husband is the father. So, while he’s constantly caught up in drama of his own making, other aspiring troubadours, like the young Bob Dylan (Benjamin Pike), are busy making the most of opportunities to impress producers and to cultivate a following at trendy nightclubs.
Written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis is a genre-bending adventure that’s impossible to pigeonhole. Part-musical, part-comedy, part-bittersweet portrait of a lovable loser, the enigmatic masterpiece unfolds over the course of a couple of very eventful weeks in the life of a hopeless slacker who can’t seem to get out of his own way.
The film features such familiar hallmarks of a Coen Bros. production as a profusion of quirky characters, a compelling storyline, humorous asides ranging from subtle non-sequiturs to simplistic slapstick, and an original soundtrack by the incomparable T-Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) seamlessly sewn into the painstakingly-recreated period piece.
Yet, Inside Llewyn Davis is also refreshingly unique, thanks to an endlessly-inventive script which there’s no reason to anticipate. Instead, just sit back and bask in the glow of a nostalgic cinematic treat best served unspoiled.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 105 minutes
Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey
Eco-Documentary Laments Melting Of Himalayan Glaciers
700 Buddhist monks and nuns decided to embark on a 500-mile trek across the Himalayasto bring attention to the ecological devastation being visited upon the region’s glaciers by climate change. That perilous journey across treacherous terrain and at altitudes as high as 17,000 feet is the subject of Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey, an Earth-friendly documentary marking the directorial debut of Wendy J.N. Lee.
Ms. Lee, an Asian American, shot the visually-captivating adventure with a solar-powered camera, and subsequently enlisted actress Daryl Hannah to provide the picture’s voiceover. The ascetic march was led by a guru named Ngawang Sodpa, whose devotees were quite photogenic, outfitted in brightly-colored robes, as they negotiated narrow paths through the mountains and valleys.
Along the way, the hardy band of travelers deal with frigid temperatures, illness, injuries and starvation while periodically stopping at villages to preach about preserving the planet. At one port-of-call, they encounter an obnoxious German tourist intent on purchasing some of a monastery’s ancient artifacts.
Wendy’s sister, Carrie, an attorney also making the pilgrimage, informs the European interloper that the priceless spiritual items aren’t for sale. But instead of taking “no” for an answer, the would-be looter asks to speak to the white person in charge. When resolute Carrie insists that the buck stops with her and reiterates her decision, the guy gets so incensed that he starts hitting her with a stick.
Otherwise, the well-intentioned Pad Yatra proves to be a peaceful walk effectively warning about global warming from the top of the world.
Very Good (3 stars)
In English and Tibetan with subtitles
Running time: 72 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening December 13, 2013
American Hustle (R for sexuality, pervasive profanity and brief violence) David O. Russell wrote and directed this crime drama about a couple of con artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) forced by an overzealous FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to infiltrate a New Jersey underworld inhabited by mobsters protected by a crooked, big city mayor (Jeremy Renner). Support cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K. and Michael Pena.
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (PG-13 for intense violence and frightening images) Second installment of the fantasy trilogy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien classic finds Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and company continuing their epic journey to Lonely Mountain for a showdown with a fearsome dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch). Cast includes Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett and Stephen Fry.
A Madea Christmas (PG-13 for profanity, crude humor and sexual references) Tyler Perry’s back in drag in this adaptation of his holiday-themed play, set in a small Southern town, as a moralizing, motor-mouthed granny straightening out sinners while spreading Christmas cheer. Ensemble includes Tika Sumpter, Larry the Cable Guy, Anna Maria Horsford, Kathy Najimy and Chad Michael Murray.
Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13 for mature themes and unsettling images) Period piece recounting Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) bending over backwards to secure the film rights to Mary Poppins from P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the overprotective author of the beloved children’s book. With Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell, Rachel Griffiths, Ruth Wilson and Jason Schwartzman.
BraveMiss World (Unrated) Female empowerment biopic recounting how Miss Israel Linor Abargil first went on to win the Miss World beauty pageant just six weeks after being abducted, raped and stabbed. She subsequently spoke out about sexual assault over the course of her reign.
The Crash Reel (Unrated) Daredevil documentary chronicling the fierce rivalry between fellow snowboarders Shaun White and Kevin Pearce culminating in the former’s winning a gold medal at the Olympics the year after the latter suffered a near-fatal injury during a training run.
Here Comes The Devil (Unrated) Psychological horror flick, set in Mexico, about a couple (Francisco Barreiro and Laura Caro) whose kids (Michele Garcia and Alan Martinez) vanish while on a family vacation in Tijuana only to behave strangely different when found. With Jessica Iris, Dana Dorel and David Arturo Cabezud. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Hours (PG-13 for violence, mature themes and drug use) Recently deceased Paul Walker stars in this tale of survival, set inNew Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, as a father who tries to keep his premature baby daughter alive after his wife (Genesis Rodriguez) dies during childbirth. With Nick Gomez, Judd Lormand and Michelle Torres.
The Last Of The Unjust (PG-13 for mature themes) Holocaust documentary about Theresienstadt, a model ghetto designed by Hitler henchman Adolf Eichmann to mislead Jews about its true function as the final stop before the gas chambers. (In German, French and English with subtitles)
Some Velvet Morning (Unrated) Neil LaBute wrote and directed this midlife crisis drama about a married man (Stanley Tucci) who becomes obsessed with his estranged mistress (Alice Eve) after failing to convince her that he’s finally left his wife for her.
Tricked (Unrated) Absurdist farce about a businessman (Peter Blok) whose life starts to spin out of control at a 50th birthday party thrown for him by his wife (Ricky Koole) when his pregnant mistress (Sallie Harmsen) shows up uninvited. With Robert de Hoog, Carolien Spoor and Pieter Tiddens. (In Dutch and English with subtitles)
The Unbelievers (Unrated) Flat Earth documentary featuring peripatetic scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss’ globetrotting campaign promoting science and reason over religion and superstition. With commentary by Woody Allen, Cameron Diaz and Ricky Gervais.