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Inside Llewyn Davis

Posted by admin on January 14, 2014

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As a film nerd, I have often thought to myself, am I my own worst enemy? I have a job and I do my best to get these reviews up on my site, but a part of me thinks that I can always do better. I’ll write my reviews, post them, I make sure that all the links work and I’ll call it day. I know that I can get more work out if I spent more time on writing. I do have plans to work on my own novel soon, but I still haven’t gotten through my development stages. This has led me to ask if I’m just doing this for myself.

I think that a lot of this may have to do with the fact that I’m afraid of becoming a total failure. I think that anybody in the arts can agree with me on this. All of us have a piece of art of a melody of a song that we’re afraid that people are not going to see the work the same way we saw it.  There’s plenty of untapped talent in music that’s waiting to emerge. A folk singer finds himself in a similar pair of shoes in Inside Llewyn Davis.

It’s New York City in 1961. It’s a total era of beatniks and bohemians, as much of them are going from clubs to coffee shops with hopes of gaining at least one fan. Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) is fellow bohemian who is struggling to make a lasting folk singer career as his partner Mike had committed suicide, his first solo record is not selling, and he’s couch surfing just to get a place to sleep. Though he’s staying with friends, it’s hard to call them friends when Llewyn doesn’t show much appreciation back.

One of the couches he crashes on belongs to friends Jean (played by Carey Mulligan) and her husband Jim (played by Justin Timberlake). Jean’s afraid that she may have gotten pregnant from Llewyn, so she’s very angry. Jim meanwhile is nice enough to let Llewyn jam alongside in a recording of a novelty song. But with little money coming in, Llewyn hitches a ride to Chicago with a jazz musician Roland Turner (played by John Goodman) and his beat poet valet Johnny Five (played by Garrett Hedlund). As he reaches the Windy City further, Llewyn starts to realize that he may be afraid to succeed, but is it something he really wants?

Inside Llewyn Davis barely has a story. It’s more of a character study. It’s seeing the beatnik era through the eyes of this struggling folk singer. Now I’m not a folk music fan, but that was clearly the most concentrated aspect. There are plenty of songs (though I can’t count this as a musical) and all of them are very good. The combination of the Coen brothers’ direction with the music producing of T-Bone Burnett proves to be fun mix (as it was with bluegrass in O Brother, Where Art Thou?).

Oscar Isaac is an actor that always been a good performer, but doesn’t receive much recognition. Isaac gives Llewyn that hard to find balance of likable but unlikable. He’s talented and tries to please people, but also has bad mood swings. You know he’s in a bad place and will unfortunately stay there with his attitude. Each character gets their turn as Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, and several others have their own side to say about the folk movement. Now my problem here is that there were too many stories that didn’t go anywhere. It was trying to do what The Big Lebowski did much better. I think what Inside Llewyn Davis needed was to at least create a better connection from all these side characters to Llewyn.

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I’ll give this four and a half orange cats out of five. Inside Llewyn Davis is a harsh look at people that try their best to work with one guy who simply won’t mature. It’s unforgiving, but entertaining. The soundtrack is the real five star show. 

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