A successful child actor who managed to transition to a wide range of adult roles, Spencer Treat Clark is best known for his supporting parts in major Hollywood films released around the turn of the 2...
Much like the somber melodies that float throughout its 105-minute runtime, Inside Llewyn Davis will remain lodged in your head weeks after you and the film first meet. With Oscar Isaac's "Fare thee we-e-ell..." ringing daintily in your ears, you'll shuffle out from the grasp of the Coen Brothers' wonderland of gray, but you won't soon be able to relieve yourself of what is arguable the pair's best film yet. Llewyn's is a story so outstandingly simple — he's a man who's s**t out of luck, and not especially deserving of any. He wakes up, loses his friend's cat, plays some music, and wishes things were better. And yet his is the Coens' most invigorating and deftly human tale yet.
Llewyn Davis makes the bold, but practical, choice of never insisting that we love its hero. He's effectively a jackass, justifying all the waste he has incurred with the rudeness he showers on the majority of those in his acquaintance. But Llewyn Davis isn't the villain here, either. The villain is the industry, and all the uphill battles inherent to its machinations. The villain isn't Llewyn's substantially more successful contacts — an old pal Jim (Justin Timberlake) and new fellow couch-surfer Troy (Stark Sands), but the listening public that prefers their saccharine pop to his dreary drips of misery. The villain isn't Llewyn's resentful old flame Jean (Carey Mulligan), no matter how many volatile admonitions she might shoot his way, but the act of God surrounding their unwitting adherence to one another. And it's not even the cantankerous and foul Roland Turner (a delightfully hammy John Goodman), but the endless, frigid open road of which each man is a prisoner (if the film has one flaw, it's that this segment carries on just a bit too long, but that might very well be the point). The villain is the cold.
Call it all a raw deal. But the real dynamism isn't in the challenges that happen outside Llewyn Davis, but in the determined toxicity brewing inside as he meets each and every one.
But this isn't the Coen Brothers' Murphy's Law comedy A Serious Man — we don't watch a chaotic pileup of every imaginable trick that the devil can manage to pull. Llewyn is steady throughout, not burying Llewyn deeper but keeping him on the ground, with the fruit-bearing branches forever out of his reach. In its narrative, Llewyn Davis is as close to natural life as any of the filmmakers' works to date. Perfectly exhibited in a late scene involving a trip to Akron, Llewyn isn't a cinematic construct, but the sort of person we know, so painfully, that we are very likely to be... on our bad days.
Still, working in such a terrific harmony with the grounded feel of Llewyn himself, we have that Coen whimsy in their delivery of 1960s New York City — rather, a magic kingdom painted in the stellar form of a 1960s New York City. And not the New York City we're given by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Closer, maybe, to Spike Lee or Sydney Lumet, but still a terrain unique to moviegoers. A New York that's always recovering from a hostile rain, and always promising another 'round the bend. One that flickers like a dying bulb, with its million odd beleaguered moths buzzing around it against the pull of logic. There is something so incredibly alive about the Coens' crying city; this hazy dream world's partnership with half-dead, anchored-to-earth portrait like Llewyn is the product of such sophisticated imagination at play.
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And to cap this review of one of the best features 2013 has given us, it's only appropriate to return to the element in which its identity is really cemented: the music. Without the tunes bobbing through the story, we'd still likely find something terrific in Llewyn Davis. But the music, as beautiful as it is, is the reason for the story. As we watch Isaac's hopeless sad sack drag himself through Manhattan's winter, past the helping hands of friends and into the grimaces of strangers, as we struggle with our own handfuls of nihilistic skepticism that any of this yarn is worth the agony (or that our attention to its meandering nature is worth the price of a ticket), we are given the rare treat of an answer. Of course it's all for something. Of course it's all about something. It's about that beautiful, beautiful music.
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You don’t have to be a Shakespeare buff to enjoy Joss Whedon's modern adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Filmed at Whedon’s house in only 12 days with a cast of his friends from various past projects, the movie stays true to the playwright's comedy, but places his prose in a more relatable setting. Unlike another Shakespeare adaptation that keeps the original language but uses a modern setting, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, Whedon's black-and-white interpretation is more casual and subtle.
Although the dialogue may be a bit hard to follow for those who aren't familiar with the play, the actors deliver their lines in such a way that makes their intent clear. You can understand when they are teasing, when they are fighting, and when they are being sarcastic (and there is a lot of sarcasm). They aren't giving dramatic performances on a stage; they are having normal conversations with each other that just happen to be spoken in flowery language.
As it turns out, many of today's romantic comedy tropes are found in the 400-year-old text. Full-of-himself playboy Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and independent, quick-witted Beatrice (Amy Acker) despise each other and are constantly bickering. Even if you haven’t read the play, I think you can guess what happens between them. The plot also includes a called-off wedding between Beatrice's cousin Hero (Jillian Morgese) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). Of course, there are elements of the story that wouldn't make sense in contemporary society, like Hero faking her death due to some big blow-up that arose because she might not be a virgin. But while there isn't always a happy ending in Shakespeare, for this rom-com, it's basically a given.
Much of the cast was already quite familiar with Shakespeare, because Whedon has hosted many readings of his plays over the years (one of which inspired this version of Much Ado). It's as though the audience was invited to one of Whedon's get-togethers... only there are also trapeze artists there for some reason. For Whedon fanatics, it's fun to see who the director rounded up to star in the film. (Look, it's Wesley! And Mal! And Agent Coulson!) Denisof and Acker pull off some physical comedy as they eavesdrop on conversations about each other, and Nathan Fillion is great in a small part as police officer Dogberry. It's obvious that the cast, as well as Whedon, have a sincere appreciation for Shakespeare's original work, but also had a fun time giving it their own twist.
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Joined the cast of "Another World" while still in elementary school
Appeared in "Mystic River"
Performed in Joss Whedon's film version of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing"
Had key roles in both "Gladiator" and "Unbreakable"
Made his film debut in "Arlington Road"
A successful child actor who managed to transition to a wide range of adult roles, Spencer Treat Clark is best known for his supporting parts in major Hollywood films released around the turn of the 21st century. The Northeast native had a number of television roles, including a stint on the soap "Another World" (NBC, 1964-1999), before his 10th birthday, and soon graduated to feature films, making his movie debut as the son of Jeff Bridges' character in the tense drama "Arlington Road" (1999). The following year, Clark had notable parts in the Oscar-conquering period film "Gladiator" and the enigmatic thriller "Unbreakable." Aside from an appearance in the lauded crime drama "Mystic River" (2003), he largely focused on his studies while in his teens, eventually resurfacing prominently in the horror remake "The Last House on the Left" (2009). Clark made a few TV guest appearances before firmly reestablishing himself as a screen presence in Joss Whedon's Shakespeare adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing" (2012). <p>A New Yorker by birth, Spencer Treat Clark grew up in nearby Connecticut along with his older sister, Eliza, who would go on to become an actress and screenwriter. With his delicate features, freckles, and mop of brown hair, the endearing Clark easily appealed to producers when he began auditioning, and he soon won small parts on TV, including a recurring role on the long-running soap opera "Another World." In 1999, he made his first feature appearance in the slow-burning thriller "Arlington Road," sharing scenes with Jeff Bridges as his single dad, and he also turned up briefly in another twisty crime drama, "Double Jeopardy." Subsequently, Clark was cast in Ridley Scott's sword-and-sandal epic, "Gladiator," playing Lucius, the nephew of the none-too-doting Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Before the hit film could even rack up its various awards, including five Oscars, Clark portrayed the sensitive son of Bruce Willis' mysteriously indestructible father in M. Night Shyamalan's moody superhero movie "Unbreakable."<p>After these major productions, Clark steered clear of screen acting for a while and attended the prestigious Taft School as a teen. He returned to Hollywood briefly for a crucial supporting part in the star-studded crime drama "Mystic River" (2003), featuring Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon, and later appeared in a few little-seen indie films, including Bacon's directorial effort "Loverboy" (2005). In 2009, Clark finally returned to high-profile productions, joining the cast of the brutal revenge thriller "The Last House on the Left," along with Aaron Paul and Garret Dillahunt. Following guest spots on major TV dramas such as "The Good Wife" (CBS, 2009- ) and "The Closer" (TNT, 2005-2012), he became a part of the Joss Whedon fold when the adored writer/director selected him to play Borachio in his post-"Avengers" project, a playful adaptation of William Shakespeare's romantic comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" (2012), which also featured fan-favorite actors such as Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion. Clark later starred in the indie thriller "Deep Dark Canyon" (2013) and stuck with grittier material for a featured part in "The Last Exorcism Part II" (2013).