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Awards Wrap-Up: Does ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Have 2014 Oscar Potential After Cannes Premiere?

CBS Films

We have been keeping track of the features screening at the Cannes Film Festival, listening for buzz surrounding possible 2014 Oscar contenders that could be holding coming-out parties on the Croisette.

Well, the awards needle starting moving on Saturday evening when Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ started screening for critics and crowds. So will this be another awards contender for the Coens?

Reactions to ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ across the board were favorable, with several journalists covering this year’s festival already penciling ‘Davis’ in for assorted Oscar nominations.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Sure, the Coens are Academy darlings, and their most recent film prior to ‘Llewyn’ – the proud remake of ‘True Grit’ – earned 10 nominations including Best Picture. But every once in a while, the siblings put out a film that doesn’t connect with awards voters, even as it charms audiences.

‘Llewyn Davis,’ however, appears to accomplish both missions.

Here are reactions from a few top critics covering Cannes this year:

“This darkly comic musical drama with an elliptical narrative and often brusque protagonist won’t corral the same mass audience as ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘True Grit.’ But strong reviews — for the pic itself and its stupendous soundtrack — should make this December release an awards-season success for distrib CBS Films.”
- Scott Foundas, Variety

“Closer to some of the Coens’ smaller films such as ‘Barton Fink’ and ‘A Serious Man’ than to breakouts including ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ and ‘No Country for Old Men,’ the French-financed CBS Films pickup nonetheless is a singular work by the protean filmmaking team.”
- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Bruno Delbonnel’s gorgeous visuals are etched on slate, and Ethan’s dialogue is precise and rhythmic but also alive. Like all of the Coens’ movies, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is crafted and calibrated but it contains a more organic quality than much of their work, placing it, stylistically, in the realm of ‘Fargo’ and ‘No Country For Old Men.’”
- Jamie Graham, TotalFilm

“The success or failure of the film resides on Oscar Isaac, and he absolutely wears the Coens’ precise dialogue and tone like a glove, and delivers a melancholy, worn performance that’s equally funny as well (sometimes both at the same time).”
- Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist

“As with ‘O Brother,’ it is a richly layered piece that seems to be satirical and yet is actually quite mordantly faithful to the era. Coens regulars, however, will recognize plenty here: the bad hair, the theme of God’s forgotten man, and an awful lot of incredibly deadpan dialogue. Without such wonderful music, it would be a very different story, but it seems the Coens have crafted a slow-burn awards-season shoo-in that comes with an unexpected spiritual edge.”
- Damon Wise, Empire Online

That is, indeed, high praise. Comparisons to ‘Barton Fink’ and ‘Fargo’ raise expectations, for sure. And so, with Cannes continuing along, it seems that the Coens have delivered what many believed they would before the festival started: A winning character study of an underdog antihero that’s marked by its tremendous soundtrack and the brothers’ dry-as-dust comedic dialogue.

And yes, it sounds like an Oscar contender.

Here is the latest red-band trailer for ‘Inside Llewyn Davis.’ Hopefully the film plays the fall film festival circuit before reaching U.S. theaters in December.

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