Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

  • A soulfully introspective film, Inside Llewyn Davis is a riveting week in the life of an arrogant but identifiable man.
  • Thematically, it is one of Writers/Directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s most universal movies. They use orchestrated period details and a sincere soundtrack to immerse us in a time, place and culture, but only in service of showing what it means to be an artist and what it means to grow up.
  • Which is why Llewyn’s general lack of charisma is not problematic. We don’t need to like Llewyn to empathize with him, if only because we understand his struggle. His life hasn’t gone as he’d hoped it might, and he’s at a crossroads, one many of us have also faced, at some point or another. In other words, this film is rife with application to its viewers’ lives.
  • Partially because the movie feels so real. As Thomas Vinterburg does in The Hunt, the Coen brothers use every filmmaking element to immerse us in quiet reality. Their period details are exact; the music is familiar; the characters are based on real people; the problems and conflicts are all natural; the film features minimal camera movements and editing cuts; and so forth.
  • Every element, every part of this movie helps us connect with Llewyn, helps us see ourselves in him, and thereby makes the feature impacting.
  • Because it is so important, I will call special attention to the soundtrack. It is amazing, and carries much of the film’s emotion.
  • Llewyn is exceptionally well developed, and the Coens’ dialouge is witty and interesting, which are two reasons their screenplay is one of 2013’s best.
  • The performances are top notch, as well. In an always understated performance, Oscar Isaac is spell binding as Llewyn Davis, proving to be one of 2013’s best lead performers. He isn’t flashy, but the subtlety makes him more effective.
  • So effective, in fact, that we completely agree with Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) when he criticizes Llewyn.
  • All of the side performances are equally strong. John Goodman (Roland Turner) stands out as particularly excellent.
  • If Inside Llewyn Davis has a flaw, it is that we only know the protagonist. The other characters come and go so quickly that we do not truly understand any of them.
  • But it is a minor misstep, so minor that it might not even be one. Inside Llewyn Davis is a terrific picture.
  • It also one of the year’s best.
  • Final Grade: A

32 thoughts on “Inside Llewyn Davis

  1. Really looking forward to this James, even more so after reading so many positive reviews. More brilliance from the Coens it would seem!

  2. Good review, this movie didn’t last too long in the theatres where I’m at. Some Cohen bros. movies I really like such as No Country and True Grit but some don’t appeal to me like Burn After Reading and O Brother.

    • You don’t like O’Brother? Interesting. It’s one of my favorites, behind Fargo and (maybe) this one. I am also one of the few who likes Burn After Reading. I even think The Man Who Wasn’t There pretty solid. Now that I spell all of this out … I realize I am the Coens target audience. πŸ˜‰

      And too bad you weren’t able to see Llewyn Davis. It’s very good.

      • O’Brother was just okay for me, I didn’t get the fuss about it. I still have to watch Fargo, I only watched bits and pieces. Burn after Reading I did not get at all. I don’t think I’m Coen target audience but I’ll give their other movies a chance.

      • They do a particular style, a particular humor that I can understand not working for everyone.

        It’s a style this one often shelves, by the way. They actually try to make us identify with Llewyn.

  3. This is very good to hear, James. The Coens are my personal favourites and this my most anticipated film of the year. I think it’s highly unlikely that I won’t like this.

    • In that case, I think you’re going to love it.

      They are also one of my personal favorites (to the extent that I have to see a Coen film I don’t like. I even like Burn After Reading and The Man Who Wasn’t There). And this one fascinates me, at least, partially because the music is so emotional and partially because this might be the most intimate I have ever seen the Coens get.

      • I wasn’t all that keen on The Ladykillers. It wasn’t bad but just not up to the Coens’ standard. I loved Burn After Reading, I thought it was hilarious and The Man Who Wasn’t There was brilliant too.

      • I haven’t seen four of their directed movies, and The Ladykillers is one of my misses. The others? Blood Simple (I know: how haven’t I made a point of seeing their first?), A Serious Man, and Intolerable Cruelty. I plan to remedy those misses at some point. πŸ™‚

        When I do, I’ll let you know if I agree on The Ladykillers.

      • A lot of people didn’t like Intolerable Cruelty as it’s a tad too much in the romantic genre but the Coens still deliver it with plenty of laughs. I liked it. A Serious Man is also an acquired taste but Blood Simple is just classic noir.

      • Blood Simple is the one I mean to see first, out of the four. It was the first they made, and I feel a true fanatic, as I hope to someday be, should have seen it by now. πŸ™‚

        One of my friends and I generally agree on most movies. He hates A Serious Man, a lot, which is one reason I haven’t prioritized seeing it. The other reason? I have never liked Richard Kind. At all. I don’t know how big his role, but I know he’s in the film. It’ll probably be the last I see. πŸ™‚

      • I liked A Serious Man but I can see why some wouldn’t. If taken as an allegory then it works on a better level. Richard Kind is in it a fair bit, if I remember correctly. Can’t say I like the guy or not, though. I’m rather indifferent.

  4. I really enjoyed A Serious Man even though I suspect a lot of the religious references went over my head. I’m looking forward to this, glad you enjoyed it!

    • A Serious Man is one of the four Coen flicks I haven’t seen. I will change that at some point, though.

      And yeah. This one’s great. I think you’ll like it.

  5. Nice review. Just saw this yesterday and I’m letting it sit a bit before I write about it. I liked it a lot, but not quite as much as you I expect (it may have just been overshadowed by Her though).

    • I’ll look forward to your thoughts, when they come.

      Honestly, my immediate reaction upon leaving the theater was not quite this positive. I still liked it a lot, but I expected to find a some fault with it. As it reflected, however, I just didn’t. And I started realizing how carefully the Coen’s had made me identify with Llewyn, made me care, even if I didn’t like him. It was enough to increase my appreciation for the film at large.

    • And for good reason. Both are excellent – both also happen to be in my top ten.

      (Incidentally, I plan to spin by your site a little later, once I have a chance to sit at a computer, rather than a phone.)

  6. Excellent review James. I look forward to getting to this, I have made a point about seeing it for awhile but for some reason I just have been falling behind with my viewing pace as of late. Reviews like this kicks it back into gear, though. πŸ™‚

  7. I agree that the cinematography was good, and the dialogue was also realistic and interesting. I just did not care about the lead character as much. I found him to be a jerk a lot of the times and could not care about his struggles. I will agree that Oscar Davis does a fantastic job in the role in making him a very believable character. I just did not like spending time with him. Good Review.

    • Llewyn is not likable. No questioning that. I personally think that relatively unimportant, though. The key is that we understand him and that we can see something of our own lives in his. And I think the Coens accomplish both points.

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