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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Any rock star who's been around as long as Jon Bon Jovi has seen his share of friends with substance abuse problems. But it doesn't necessarily make it any easier when it hits even closer to home.
On November 14, police found Bon Jovi's daughter Stephanie Bongiovi unresponsive in a dorm room at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, and an ambulance arrived at around 2 a.m. The 19-year-old was suffering from a suspected heroin overdose. She and a friend were arrested and faced misdemeanor drug possession charges, but the case was eventually dropped (thanks to a New York law that offers immunity to a person when official help is sought during a life-threatening overdose).
Now, her concerned rock-star father (pictured above in 2011 with his family, including Stephanie second from left) is speaking out for the first time, calling Stephanie's drug ordeal a "tragedy."
"It's human," he told a Fox station in LA on Tuesday. "This tragedy was something that I had to face, too, so we'll get through it. People's incredible warm wishes for my family and I have been really reassuring. So, we're good."
Bon Jovi, who's widely known as a devoted family man, managed to steer relatively clear from the hard-partying drug scene himself although he admits to some experimentation in his teen years. For that short time, he enjoyed drugs and even began dealing them, he told Men's Health in 2007. "I did the drug thing very young and wised up very young too, because I was into drugs a little too much," he says. "I've always felt I didn't have the mental stability to handle drugs."
[Photo credit: Wenn]
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Video of the tiger attack isn't being released
Despite two subpoenas from federal authorities, the company behind the Siegfried & Roy Las Vegas magic show has refused to turn over video of last year's tiger attack on illusionist Roy Horn, The Associated Press reports. In an investigation into the incident, where Horn was mauled by a 300-pound tiger during an Oct. 3 live performance at The Mirage hotel-casino, the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to obtain video of the show under the federal Animal Welfare Act to see if there were possible violations of the act. Feld Entertainment, however, would not hand over the footage, a USDA source familiar with the case told AP. USDA spokesman Jim Rogers said Tuesday from Washington D.C. that the probe into the tiger attack remains open and if violations did occur, the USDA can take action against violators, imposing fines and suspending or revoking licenses.
No ****! Dave Matthews Band sued for dumping poop
The state of Illinois sued the Dave Matthews Band on Tuesday for allegedly dumping up to 800 pounds of liquid human waste from a bus into the Chicago River and dousing a tour boat filled with passengers, the AP reports. According to the lawsuit, a bus leased by the band was heading to a Chicago hotel on Aug. 8 where members were staying. The driver allegedly emptied the contents of the septic tank through Kinzie Street Bridge's metal grating into the river below. More than 100 people on an architecture tour were showered with the waste. After the incident, the boat's captain turned the vessel around and took passengers back to the dock and given refunds. The boat was cleaned with disinfectant. The lawsuit seeks $70,000 in civil penalties. A spokesman for the band said the driver stated he was not involved in this incident, and added that the band "will continue to be cooperative in this investigation."
Rodney Dangerfield hospitalized for heart trouble
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, best known for his trademark line "I don't get no respect!" was admitted on Tuesday to a Los Angeles hospital for heart valve replacement surgery, his publicist told Reuters. The surgery at UCLA Medical Center had been planned since last year when Dangerfield had brain bypass surgery to reduce the chances of stroke during the heart procedure. The surgery is scheduled for Wednesday morning and Dangerfield is expected to make a full recovery, his publicist, Kevin Sasaki, said. The 82-year-old comedian quipped that he planned on a brief hospital stay. "If things go right, I'll be there about a week, and if things don't go right, I'll be there about an hour and a half," he said.
Toronto Film Fest announces complete lineup
The Toronto International Film Festival unveiled its 328-film lineup, which includes 100 world premieres and 81 North American premieres, Reuters reports. The festival opens Sept. 9 with the world premiere of Istvan Szabo's Being Julia, starring Annette Bening, and closes Sept. 18 with the Martin Short starrer Jiminy Glick in Lalawood. Among the other 20 high-profile films to receive red-carpet treatment are Mike Barker's A Good Woman, a comedy about Americans in Italy that stars Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johansson; and Beyond the Sea, which Kevin Spacey directed and stars in as Bobby Darin.
Apprentice runner-up scores major deal
Kwame Jackson, last year's runner-up in the hit NBC reality show The Apprentice, is turning into his former boss, Donald Trump, after completing a multibillion dollar real-estate deal of his own, AP reports. With two other partners, Jackson has made a deal with officials in Prince George's County in Maryland to develop an 80-to-130-acre area into commercial and residential property. The deal is worth $3.8 billion and will provide over 32,000 jobs, Jackson explained. "For me, The Apprentice was the beginning," he told AP. "It's not a ceiling, it's a floor."
Whoopi returns to Broadway
Whoopi Goldberg is returning to Broadway in the show that jump-started her career 20 years ago, the AP reports. Goldberg's self-titled show opens Nov. 17 at the Lyceum Theatre in New York, the same house where her one-woman show premiered in October 1984 and ran for 156 performances. Since then, the comedian has appeared on Broadway in the revivals of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Goldberg, who won a supporting actress Oscar in 1991 for her role in Ghost, will first try out her show in Philadelphia, playing a week's engagement at the Merriam Theatre starting Oct. 13. Preview performances will start in New York Nov. 6.
Spector hires former Gotti attorney
Music producer Phil Spector has hired an attorney who used to work for mob boss John Gotti to defend him on murder charges after his previous attorney resigned from the case, the AP reports. But Leslie Abramson said Tuesday she and her co-counsel were taken by surprise when Bruce Cutler filed a motion to take over the case. "We were put in an untenable position, and we were forced to resign," Abramson told the AP. Cutler, however, said he signed on as Spector's personal attorney before Abramson and Marcia Morrissey took over the criminal case. "Leslie and Marcia were brought on in February, and they quit in July. They just jumped ship, and I had to take control of the ship and bring it into port," Cutler said. Spector, 64, is charged in the fatal shooting of 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson at his home in February 2003. He is free on $1 million bail.
Metallica to release vinyl box set
Heavy metal group Metallica will release a boxed set of albums on vinyl on Oct. 26, Billboard.com reports. Vinyl Box will include special editions of the group's first four studio albums along with the long-out-of-print Garage Days Re-Revisited EP and the Creeping Death picture disc, which was previously unavailable in the U.S. Metallica, currently in the middle of a North American tour, has been in perpetual spotlight this year: The band has already released a documentary feature, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, and published a coffee table book tiled So What! The Good, the Mad, and the Ugly. Vinyl Box, distributed by Elektra/Rhino Vinyl, will be limited to 5,000 numbered copies and will carry a suggested retail price of $99.98.
TV director Petrie dies
Emmy Award-winning television and film director Daniel Petrie Sr., who also made such motion pictures as A Raisin in the Sun and Fort Apache the Bronx, died of cancer Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. He was 83. Petrie, who earned his Emmys for the TV miniseries Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years in 1976, also earned television's Peabody Award in 1977 for Sybil, starring Sally Field. Petrie is survived by his wife of 57 years, TV producer Dorothea Petrie, and their four children--screenwriter Dan Petrie Jr., director Donald Petrie, actress Mary Petrie, and producer June Petrie. The family has asked that memorial donations be sent to the American Film Institute or the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.