Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)

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After long time of waiting and waiting and after a very successful Cannes Film Festival premiere where it got the Grand Prix, the second best award of the festival, I finally got to see Inside Llewyn Davis. Thank God someone in my little forgotten country where we mostly get explosive blockbusters, stupid rom-coms and silly comedies (it’s not that bad, but I will never forgive them for not releasing The Master, not even at a small festival) thought this one was worth checking out, even here.
After seeing almost all their films, all but The Ladykillers and the Paris Je t’aime segment, I can surely say that I am a Coen Brothers fan for life. I love their weird style, there’s something so unusual about their films, the characters they write, the mood, the music, their films are complete in every way. I recognize a Coen film when I see one. They have very noticeable characteristics.

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Inside Llewyn Davis takes us through one week in the life of Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac, a folk singer in 1961 trying to get by and do the best he can with his gift. He is a very talented singer and guitarist, but he cannot break out of his shell, he doesn’t have a lot of luck with his songs, he is appreciated for his talent, but not many people know about him, people enjoy his music, but he never seems to get the success he deserves. He was previously in a duo but his partner committed suicide. The deal with Llewyn is that he doesn’t make life simple for himself, he enters in a lot of trouble, does a lot of stupid stuff, he doesn’t have a home, sleeps almost every night in a different place, you almost feel sorry him. I appreciated this a lot, that the Coens didn’t make him a great guy who is completely helpless but they still made us feel sorry for him, in a way, after seeing all the shit he gets into, but one thing’s for sure, an asshole is an asshole and Llewyn is surely one.

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We see him drifting through the streets of New York through a tough winter, wearing clothes clearly not appropriate for the weather and carrying his guitar through the cold wind, not knowing where he would spend the night. It shows how hard the life of an artist can be. You try to make it as one but after a while, after many moments of hope, you see it will never work out. It also depends what your art is. You have to know your fans, what they like and if your art could be something they’ll enjoy. What I liked about Llewyn Davis was that he remained faithful to his music and style and that he didn’t change for success. People will like him only for the music he makes and what he truly is and not for what some executive wants him to be. He had the opportunity to change but he chose not to. The life of an artist is a common theme in cinema. In this film it’s just told in a more darkly comic way than usual.

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The performances were top notch. Oscar Isaac shines in what turns out to be his breakout role. He’s been in a lot of films since the start of his career, but it’s only now when he gets a leading role, a great one. He captures all the sides of Llewyn Davis greatly. He carries the film admirably and nails the singing parts proving himself to be a fantastic guitarist and singer. He is helped by the very talented supporting cast which includes Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, of course, Garret Hedlund, Adam Driver and F. Murray Abraham. Mulligan is a delight, seeing her in a more unlikablerole was a pleasure, she nails the part. She also has a great singing voice. Timberlake’s role wasn’t big, he just played the good guy. He handled the role well, but the part wasn’t very hard to begin with. I have to admit it was weird seeing him do other kind of songs. His R&B voice was still noticeable in the performances. John Goodman’s role wasn’t big either. I think they put him in the film just for the sake of it,  mainly for comic relief. The cast as a whole was actually very good.

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What impressed me and stayed with me the most was the cinematography which was so unusual. I noticed the look after watching the trailer. It was almost dreamlike, probably to show nostalgic or melancholic feelings. Beautiful shots, loved the ones in the snow. I also appreciate they didn’t show the same 60’s setting like in every other film/TV show set in that time. While I usually enjoy the look and the fashion of those times, I’m glad we got to see another face of the 60’s.

The soundtrack is incredibly good. Beautiful, well written songs that transport you to those times. I’m glad they found the right people for the music because it is crucial to the story. I hope they get recognized for it. So far they received a lot of awards.
I’m so glad I finally saw this one, I waited too much. It was also really great seeing it on the big screen with not too many people in. It’s such an intimate story. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and the soundtrack is evocative of those times. The Coen Brothers bring yet another great film to their fantastic filmography. They sure are some of the most interesting filmmakers out there.

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2 comments

  1. I actually just saw this movie over the weekend and also thought it was very good. I agree on the dreamlike state created by the cinematography and look of the movie. It really conveys the way that Llewyn drifts through life and just can’t pull himself together. It’s a story that could easily be frustrating or depressing in lesser hands, but it never falls into that trap because of the actors and the Coen Brothers.

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