Inside Llewyn Davis review

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Film Review
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So when you go to a Joel and Ethan Coen film, you expect a rich character study filled with quirky characters, and “Inside Llewyn Davis” does not disappoint.

The film follows a week in the life of aspiring folk singer Llewyn Davis, homeless and adrift, as he  bounces from one borrowed couch to another, freeloading from one friend’s pad (or perhaps not even a friend) to the next, as he moves about Greenwich Village trying to survive in the early 1960s. He has flirted with success, but that was when he was one half of a duet that had a semi-hit song, but the road of a solo artist is not as easy as Llewyn hoped. The potpourri of characters with whom he interacts are as varied and as quirky as they come: the singing husband/wife team of Jean and Jim (portrayed winningly by Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake) where his welcome (and benefits) are wearing quite thin; to the singing soldier Troy Nelson (Stark Sands), a goody two-shoes who Llewyn is just not sure about; to his fellow studio musician/singer Al Cody (featuring a great bass vocal played to the hilt by Adam Driver – with a straight face no less); to his traveling companions on a short trip to Chicago – John Goodman as the delicious character Roland Turner (surely an Oscar contender, as well as many of these other performances), a big man with a bigger voice and appetite, and the driver Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund), who communicates with as little words (and grunts) as possible. What a great collection of likable and entertaining people to meet.

And then there’s the cat. Llewyn wakes up (on someone else’s couch, of course) to the face of a cat. Nice enough cat, he supposes, until Llewyn slips out the apartment door and with him goes the cat – just as the door (locked) shuts behind them. Now Llewyn is stuck with the cat, whom he first tries to pawn off onto the elevator attendant (Jack O’Connell) – another likable character – but he ends up taking the cat with him to his next crash pad couch. From here and through an open window the cat escapes and Llewyn fails in his attempt to find him. So there is this revolving subplot of Llewyn and the cat: how it is lost and found, returned and lost, found and ultimately abandoned, this symbolism of the cat and the mirroring of Llewyn’s life is fun to follow.

The music of “Inside Llewyn Davis” is so such fun, and all of the varied acts get to shine on their own and in groups, with special thumbs up to Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Adam Driver, Stark Sands, and all the others really. Oscar Isaac does a great job as a singer and guitarist, too.

Now about Llewyn Davis. You really want to like this guy, especially with his fun collection of friends, but he is so hard to not dislike: he is self-centered, self-absorbed, mean, loud, insensitive, and he abandons everyone and everything as he chases his dream. Not being able to like Llewyn makes it hard to totally enjoy the experience of the film, and leaves you wanting more. In the end, the biggest problem for me with “Inside Llewyn Davis” is that everyone in the film is so doggone likable – well, except our protagonist. It’s still a recommended viewing experience. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a well-made film with great acting, and you really get a feel and flavor for the folk movement of the early 60’s (as well as some Jack Kerouac “On the Road,” too). So go see it and meet some fun characters, hear some fun music, as  you watch Llewyn Davis not have ANY fun at all.

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