THAT CAT CAN ACT
“JEAN: I should have had you wear double condoms. But if you ever do it again, which as a favor to women everywhere you should not. But if you do, you should be wearing condom on condom. And then wrap it in electrical tape. You should just walk around always, inside a great big condom. Because you are shit!” — Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
I was actually late to a party the other night and I was holding a gift so I finally got to say (in real time), “Sorry, I know I’m late to the party with this…” Here I am again, WAY late to another party and the gift I’m holding is not from me, it’s from The Coen Brothers— INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. Yay, I’m a bonafide Facebook cliche! I haven’t enjoyed a film this much since Barry Levinson’s, DINER, the movie (to me) that best exemplifies how to tell a story with “actors” without having them appear as though they are “acting”. If you haven’t seen that kind of story telling in a while because you’ve been binging on the made for flat screen variety of storytelling, do yourself a favor and see, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. It’s what great writers and directors can do to keep “actors” focused on the objective of telling their story and not focused on themselves as “actors” telling their story. And the cat is amazing. Not since BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S has there been such a natural cat “actor”. As a matter of fact, we actors wanting to learn a thing or two about how to get out of our heads and into our bodies can all take a lesson from watching cats act. They hold the secret to acting— they are themselves and it’s 100 times more interesting than any other cat “actor” they imagine themselves to be. If we human “actors” could take this lesson from cat actors and apply it to ourselves as “actors” we would have this “acting” thing (pardon the expression) licked. Now, it’s true that these “actors” “acting” INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS are indeed “acting” “actors”. In real life some of these “actors” even have a different way of speaking because they are from different parts of the world. And they’ve worked incredibly hard to lose this way of speaking in order to master a new way of speaking. And some have even gone to the “Disney school of acting” and they too are working incredibly hard to lose this way of speaking. And some of these “actors” even went to the Juilliard “acting” school and they are working incredibly hard to lose that dialect too. And one of these “actors” is even John Goodman! But all of these “acting” styles disappear INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. Like the cat, we are automatically drawn to these “actors”. There is suspense when we see them. We aren’t sure why. We aren’t sure what they are going to do next but whatever it is we want to be there with them. They have our attention and it’s enough that they are who they are— human beings caught in the web of life. Yay, yet another cliche! Ah, but fooled you! They are really “ACTORS” “ACTING”! Their job is to bring out the complexities of being human and they do it ever so well with their “deeply layered” performances. Yay, yet another cliche! Like the cat in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, we care about what happens to these humans— not just the protagonist—all of them. To instill that kind of caring in an audience is the key to the art and craft of storytelling and my final cliche, “ENSEMBLE ACTING”. Many of us need to be reminded of our compassion not just our indifference; not just our cruelty. Too often we judge people upon first meeting them so we need to be reminded that we have no idea of the journey another human being has taken to get to where they’ve ended up. And great storytelling and yes, even great acting, allows us to see their journey which in turn shows us ours. Yes, I got all of this from seeing INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. Thank you.