“Inside Llewyn Davis”
Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Oscar Issac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
Story: A week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk musician living from couch to couch in New York City in the 1960’s.
The Coen brothers (‘No Country For Old Men Fargo, and The Big Lebowski) are an acquired taste. However, between them they have been nominated for twenty six Academy Awards (13 each). Inside Llewyn Davis is another Academy nominee, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why.
Inside Llewyn Davis is the simplistic and beautiful film that Spike Jonze wanted ‘Her’ to be. Though not as profound, for anyone who appreciates the arts Llewyn Davis is about as relatable and likeable as they come. Anyone who has ever considered sacrificing money for love (and ultimately become somewhat disillusioned) will see a little bit of themselves in this character who is portrayed soulfully by Oscar Issac.
The story is character driven, and is carried by a multitude of people from different walks of life. This keeps the plot interesting and adds a sense of pace. Carey Mulligan plays Jean, a hypocritical and selfish girl: Mulligan plays the part so well you can’t help but smile. John Goodman adds a small amount of comic relief, but not as much as to bill this film as anything but a musical drama. Other characters are minor, and we can possibly be thankful for that. Justin Timberlake was certainly built from different stuff than this movie required of him, but luckily his screen time is minimal. Adam Driver appears and delights in what little face time he has.
The true highlight of this film is the cinematography. Combined with audio variation and timing this makes a true delight. Some of the shots are captivating and leave the audience to relish in what could be their own view of the 60’s. Bruno Delbonnel should be applauded for his experimental style which leaves us somewhat caught in the blur but loving every second.
Admittedly the film plays slowly, and I found myself a few times looking at the clock. While the Coen brothers have crafted a beautiful story, it is a non-story. This is more a study of human failure than anything else. The characters, music and clever shots can only take us so far. After an hour and thirty minutes we are somewhat tired: exhausted perhaps of our internal struggle with this story. For some of us indeed it may hit too close to home. Then, as if by Coen brothers magic, the last fifteen minutes happens.
Having said this, the non-story itself is poetry. This is not a story of triumph against all odds, nor is it a story of a hero’s fall from grace. This is a story of modern man, in the 60’s, before we knew what we would become.
I have never been too much of a fan of Coen Brothers films but I can certainly appreciate Inside Llewyn Davis.