Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Review: "Inside Llewyn Davis" (2013)

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Movie"Inside Llewyn Davis"
Director: Joel and Ethan Cohen
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Llewyn Davis' (Oscar Isaac) former music partner committed suicide, leaving him to fend for himself in Greenwich Village as a struggling folk singer. Llewyn spends his time finding random gigs wherever he can while hopping from couch to couch bumming off of whatever friend will let him. Over the course of no more than a week, we get a quick glimpse into his life, his struggles, and the misfortunes of this very selfish, brash, and unfriendly artist, who has a very high opinion of himself and is convinced that he is God's gift to music.

First off, we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about the fantastic soundtrack this movie bodes. Oscar Issac, if your film career doesn't pan out, PLEASE become a musician full-time. The version of "Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song)" sung by Isaac and Marcus Mumford playing over the trailer is what really sold us on seeing this film many months ago. We couldn't get it out of our heads for days. It's a very beautiful and soulful version of this widely covered song, and you can really feel the emotion in their voices as they sing it. This version of the song is played once in the movie very early on when Llewyn listens to an old album of he and his former partner made. In the middle of the movie, Llewyn begins to sing this song at a dinner party, only to be interrupted by someone trying to join in. Llewyn gets upset and storms out of the party. To us, this signifies something being broken and not wanting to fix that missing part. At the end of the film, Llewyn returns to a dank, seedy nightclub for a gig and sings just the harmony portion of their duet. It is sung well, but something is missing, and it is obvious. This scene really shows not just the incompleteness of Llewyn's musical career, but mirrors his life in general.

As far as this film as a whole, we both enjoyed it quite a bit, though it was slightly different in than we thought it would be. Following the success of their Oscar-nominated "True Grit" (2010), the Coen Brothers step back into a more personal type of character sketch a la "A Serious Man" (2009), which was also nominated for Best Picture. There's no real plot to this movie other than Here's Llewyn. He plays folk music. He's an ass.

Oscar Isaac does a great job of playing the title character as he broods around the screen, pissed off at the world and expressing his feelings through song. The movie travels through a variety of characters that Llewyn encounters for very brief moments. Justin Timberlake plays Jim, and seemingly, the yin to Llewyn's yang. He is the antithesis of Llewyn: a happy guy who thinks the best of people and has a knack for writing hit songs that make money. John Goodman plays Roland Turner, a jazz musician with a drug problem. Garrett Hedlund plays Johnny Five, and I KNOW he can sing, so he was definitely underutilized, but both of these characters are basically useless, except for a ride to Chicago. Carey Mulligan is the female Llewyn Davis: bitchy, snarky, self-serving with an attitude problem, but she plays that kind of a character well and it's nice to see a little bit of range from her. The only purpose for all of these characters is to see how they interact with Llewyn and how they help to enable him in his pursuit of bad life choices. No matter how many times they bail him out, he always winds up in the same place: back on someone else's couch.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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