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Movie Review: Annoying loose ends trip up this rambling Coens' offering

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Oscar Isaac portrays aspiring solo artist, Llewyn Davis

Oscar Isaac portrays aspiring solo artist, Llewyn Davis

Oscar Isaac portrays aspiring solo artist, Llewyn Davis

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Drama/Comedy. Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F Murray Abraham. Director: Joel and Ethan Coen. Cert: 15A

Finally hitting cinemas almost nine months after it premiered at Cannes, the latest offering from the Coen brothers came trailing five-star hosannas yet hasn't really registered with either audiences or, most noticeably, the voters at the Academy. Coming after their most commercially successful movie ever, True Grit, which, not coincidentally I'd care to venture, emanated from source material other than the Coens themselves, Inside Llewyn Davis certainly has its moments but finds the film-makers relapsing into the tropes beloved of their fanboys.

Set in the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961, it certainly looks amazing – cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel bathing most scenes in a wintry, sepia look which recalls the sleeve of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan – as we follow the (lack of) progress of aspiring solo artist Llewyn Davis (an excellent Oscar Isaac) as he messes up situation after situation in both his personal and professional life. Men dealing with failure and unfulfilled dreams has long been a recurring theme in the Coens' work, which is all fine and good should they manage to contain those riffs within a coherent storyline, something they singularly fail to do here.

In a bitty, frustrating narrative we see Llewyn fall out with friends on a regular basis, discover that his friend's wife Jean (a criminally underused Carey Mulligan) is pregnant by him, and fail to impress agents and promoters. Along the way he manages to lose a cat (oh, the Coen obsessives are going to have a field day with that one) and undertakes a baffling road trip to Chicago in the company of a sneering jazzman (John Goodman) and his Beats-obsessed 'valet' (Garrett Hedlund), a diversion which illustrates the rambling, episodic nature of this frustrating film.

 

Some scenes are perfectly fine of themselves, not least a recording session for his pal Jim's (Justin Timberlake, also badly underused) novelty single Please Mr Kennedy (Don't Shoot Me into Outer Space) and a brief, damning encounter with manager Bud Grossman (F Murray Abraham) which nails all Davis' failings in the space of a couple of minutes.

Inside Llewyn Davis isn't a bad film as such, with Isaac extremely watchable in the title role and the music (supervised by T-Bone Burnett) spot-on for the period, but one gets the impression that the Coens are afraid to (or possibly can't) write a story with a start, middle and end without resorting to in-jokes and leaving annoying loose ends for their fanatical followers to debate on the internet in the early hours of the morning.

3/5

AUGUST : OSAGE COUNTY Drama: Starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch. Director: John Wells. Cert: 15A

GOD, there's a fierce amount of ACTING going on here altogether. With a stellar line-up, this thespfest adaptation of his Pulitzer prize-winning play allows Tracy Letts to prune the original text from well over three hours to a more bottom-friendly 120 minutes, but there's still an awful lot of emoting and revelation.

Meryl Streep is Violet Weston, the bitter, pill-addicted matriarch of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family. The suicide of her husband Bev (Sam Shepard), sees the clan gather for the funeral and feuds emerge.

The mother-daughter conflict between Violet and Barbara (Julia Roberts) is the most interesting aspect. Once other story strands are mixed in, it resembles a handful of Tennessee Williams' plays chucked into a blender – not much more than a high-end soap opera.

3/5

 

JACK RYAN : SHADOW WARRIOR Action thriller. Starring Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Costner. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Cert: 12A

AND just whose sock drawer has this been lurking at the bottom of since the early '80s? Jack Ryan: Shadow Warrior recalls the Cold War thrillers of that period, when we knew the Russians were the baddies and the CIA would save us all. Pitched as an 'origin story' for Jack Ryan yet, bizarrely, kicking off with our stock broker/analyst hero joining the Marines following 9/11, all timeline discrepancies are soon forgotten as we lurch from cliche to cliche.

Chris Pine makes for a solid, square-jawed Ryan, recruited by CIA honcho William Harper (Kevin Costner) to check the books of sinister Russian Victor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) who's up to something dastardly with the world economy. The dialogue is unintentionally hilarious at times and the gung-ho aspects of the plot will leave you dumbfounded. HHIII

GRUDGE MATCH Sports comedy. Starring Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal. Director: Peter Segal. Cert: 12A

WHAT on earth persuaded Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone to agree to this wretched 'comedy' in which two ageing fighters come out of retirement to settle an old dispute? Okay, know the answer to that one but this is truly awful.

2/5

ALSO RELEASED THIS WEEK: Teenage (3/5, Cert IFI) is a neat skip through some of the themes of Jon Savage's vast book of the same name, looking at the concept of the teenager in the first half of the 20th century. Entertaining but probably more suited as a TV programme.


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