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Non-Review Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis is great examination of a singer drifting through American music scene in the sixties, starting in Greenwich before embarking on a cross-country tour and then ending up right back where he started.

One of the nicer cinematic tricks employed by the Coen Brothers is a delightful sense of deja vu at the end of the movie. There’s a step backwards in time towards the start of the film, but also a sense that it’s so subtle you might be forgiven for missing it. After all, it doesn’t matter too much. The eponymous Llewyn Davis is an artist caught in a particular groove, stuck on repeat; despite his protestations to the contrary, he is a performing monkey who ultimately only knows one or two numbers that seem to resonate with the audience.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a melancholy examination of personal and professional failure, delivered in the Coens’ trademark tragicomic style. There’s a sense that the world itself has a cruel sense of humour, structuring a joke at the expense of Llewyn. The film doesn’t rank among the Coen Brothers’ best work, and it’s certainly not an instant classic, feeling too disconnected and occasionally too cynical to rank with with the best of their output. At the same time, a middle-tier Coen Brothers’ film is still well worth a look.

Sing when you're winning... ... or when you're not...

Sing when you’re winning…
… or when you’re not…

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Non-Review Review: Runner Runner

Runner Runner feels like it should be a lot more fun than it winds up being. For a film about gambling, it lays the cards on the table pretty quickly. It’s a story about an ambitious young man who is offered wealth and success, only to eventually discover that the price is nothing less than his soul. As such, our plucky young hero has to keep all the plates spinning as the walls close in around him, trying to keep his head above water and the wolves from his door. There are, of course, other clichés I can throw in there, but these will do for now.

As such, Runner Runner isn’t about originality or insight, borrowing heavily from far better character studies and morality plays – even the casting of Justin Timberlake as a nerdy internet-savvy college student feels like a riff on his role in The Social NetworkRunner Runner is all about the execution of these familiar high concepts and plot points. Unfortunately, the movie never seems too invested in its stakes, or too engaged with the game it is playing. When the chips are down, Runner Runner can nothing but fold.

I want to believe this is the same look Ben Affleck had when reading the internet's response to Batffleck...

I want to believe this is the same look Ben Affleck had when reading the internet’s response to Batffleck…

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