Steel City (2005) is a disheartening drama set in a depressing area that looks remarkably like Jimmy’s college town of Steubenville, OH, a dreary, dying steel-mill town hard on the banks of the Ohio River. Steubenville was the setting of 1978’s Deer Hunter, another gloomy movie about miserable people. Despite its awards, I didn’t like the big-budget Deer Hunter and I didn’t like indie-movie Steel City. Character-study movies like Starting Out in the Evening can be great, but the characters need to be likeable. The Steel City characters weren’t. The Rotten Tomato critics loved Steel City at 83%, but only 52% of the audience liked it. I’m with the audience and give it only two stars out of four.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) is a depressing drama by the Coen brothers about a young folk singer in Greenwich Village 1961 struggling to make a living. In an interview, Joel Coen admitted the film didn’t have a plot. It stars Oscar Isaac as an irresponsible, undisciplined guy mooching of friends and family who barely tolerate him. Like Steel City, the Rotten Tomato critics loved Inside Llewyn Davis at 94%. But the audience, not so much at 76%. I think the audience was too generous, and I give it only two and a half stars out of four.
Blue Valentine (2010) is a depressing drama about a young woman (Michelle Williams) who has fallen out of love with her husband (Ryan Gosling), and he is desperately trying to figure out how to fix it. The movie reminds me of 500 Days of Summer because it starts in the current time with a couple not in love and flashes back to scenes in the past when the couple was in love. Although both stars are sort of losers (she is traumatized from her parents’ dysfunctional relationship and he has no ambition), they are likeable losers. The Rotten Tomato critics loved it at 87% and the audience almost as much at 77%. I agree with the audience and give it three stars out of four.