Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): A week in the life of Llewyn Davis, an aspiring musician in the 1960's Greenwich Village folk scene. Please don't be alarmed that it's about the folk scene. It's still worthy of your attention if you are a fan of any kind of music.
So this is a great movie. If you like music, like I do, and really want to see a great piece about the life of a small-time musician, then this is an absolute must-watch. It is a brutally real and honest movie about the hardships that a nobody has to go through while trying to just make a living. He's not trying to make it big, he's just trying to get by.
The directors, the Coen brothers, do not treat their characters very well in their movies. Most known for movies like No Country for Old Men and True Grit, they certainly continue their tradition of creating a character that you so desperately want to root for but as soon as you start to like them nope! They go and do something assholish and douchey. Llewyn Davis is a jerk. No other way to say it. You do nothing but feel for him because his life is incredibly difficult, even though he is an incredibly selfish person. I mean, how would you feel if you legitimately had no idea where you were going to sleep that night? And yet while you sympathize so much with him, he goes and does terrible things, like leave a cat that he's gotten rather attached to in some dudes car so that it's his problem, or yell terrible things to a girl on stage while she's performing. It's awful. In short, this is a great character study on Llewyn Davis as much as it's an investigative piece on the life of a nobody musician. A bold undertaking for sure, and the Coen brothers nail it. Not to mention the part where it is breathtakingly shot. 10/10 on cinematography that is complete with a well-deserved Oscar nomination.
The acting is fantastic. There's really only two primary actors here, Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan. I'll start with Carey. I've seen her in several movies, none of which were any good, and she was a primary reason for the movie being not very good. Gatsby? She was terrible! And she wasn't much better in Wall Street 2. But you know what? She is fantastic here. She is so angry all the time at Davis and it's wonderful! She allows herself to be fully immersed in the role, and since it's not a love story between her and the lead (which is usually where she's falls apart) she does a great job calling Davis terrible names and treating him like complete crap. I was genuinely impressed. Oscar Isaac was also fantastic as Davis. He actually has a great voice too. He brilliantly displays the various emotions that he's asked to convey. It's not an easy role at all, and he dives right into it. And, as I said, he can sing quite well. This helps a lot. Additionally, there are many great cameos from various actors, including Justin Timberlake, Ethan Phillips, and the legendary John Goodman. All put in good performances. Nothing really memorable except maybe Timberlake, primarily since he's FINALLY playing himself in a movie, but really this is Oscar Isaac's movie. I didn't really know him before this movie, but now I am excited to see what he does next.
Now this movie did have several faults. The entire trip to Chicago, which is essentially the second act, feels rather out of place. Actually, I'll make it a bit more specific: the drive to Chicago from NYC feels out of place. Really it feels like an excuse to put John Goodman in this movie. I'm totally ok with that don't get me wrong, as they probably just brought him in for a day or two to sit in a car on set and read a few lines, but it really is unnecessary. The movie is 104 minutes long, so it's not too bad, but these few exchanges in the car go on for about 20 minutes and really takes away what the film is good at, like its stunning cinematography work, or watching Davis' life unfold in front of him. It also really throws off the pacing of the movie. Not to fear though, as the journey back only takes about 5 minutes. So at least they don't make the same mistake twice. Another thing I should mention is that the ending does not tie up a lot of loose ends at all. It might be too unsatisfying for some, despite the fact that it's trying to convey the fact that it's a circle that he's in. And he can't get out of it. I personally didn't have much of a problem with it, but if you don't like the movie that will likely be reason number one as to why you didn't like it.
In conclusion, I cannot recommend this movie enough to those who enjoy music. Don't be turned off by the fact that it's folk music! I know I have a thing for it as it is, but there is plenty more to enjoy here than just the music. Even if all you listen to is rap. It's easy to get into the life he's living while not even enjoying the music he's playing. About the only time where I felt liking folk actually benefited me was at the end where there was a great and clever cameo from the greatest musician to come out of the Greenwich Village folk scene. Obviously he was a nobody at the time but he has come to define the entire genre. You should also see this movie if you like character pieces. Unlike August: Osage County, this is a character piece where you can actually identify and appreciate the person being studied! WHOA.
The Critique: one of the best films on the music industry in recent years, Inside Llewyn Davis is a great piece of cinema from start to finish.
The Recommendation: A must-watch for any fan of the music industry and those who like the Coen brothers. Also a solid recommendation to those who like character studies.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome
Quick Oscar Talk: Only two nominations here, but honestly if this movie does not receive the award for Best Cinematography, it will be solely because of the extended John Goodman-in-a-car conversations. Also the musical single, Fare Thee Well by Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford, definitely deserved a nod for Best Original Song. Just saying. Go listen to that song if you like folk. It is fantastic.
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