Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Release date: December 6, 2013 (limited)
Running time: 105 minutes
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham 
Who to see it with: Folk music listeners and struggling artists


The Coen Brothers' latest is a week in the life of folk musician Llewyn Davis (Isaac), who struggles with several personal problems in addition to being unable to get his music career off of the ground. He clearly has talent, but his dour attitude and unwillingness to go for a mainstream audience have left him couch surfing with a dwindling number of friends. His disagreeable behavior makes this a week full of awkwardly funny discussions of music and disappointing realizations about the music world.

ILD does not have a traditional plot, often feeling like a series of moments designed to give a glimpse of the 1960's New York music scene and its artists. The characters often seem to end up right where they started rather than making much progress. This is fitting considering the difficulty of breaking into any artistic scene, especially for someone like Llewyn who refuses to join his friends (Mulligan and Timberlake) in catering to the masses. Llewyn's hardheadedness makes him fairly unsympathetic, but Isaac makes you invested in his outcome. I am not very familiar with folk music but it effectively gives ILD a melancholy mood, especially combined with the cold winter setting. There are lighter moments but they often further highlight Llewyn's frustrations. These things make ILD feel like a sadly realistic glimpse into the life of an uncompromising starving artist. The soundtrack was produced by T-Bone Burnett, who also worked on the very popular O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. ILD will likely connect most with folk fans, but most can appreciate this tale of an artist stuck in personal and professional holes of his own making.

Watch it.

I agree with everything Ronald said about the film. ILD is a very beautiful, carefully crafted movie that has a lot happen, but doesn't feel like it goes anywhere. The acting is good, the music is wonderful, the characters are varied and interesting. Isaac is an amazing actor and although you don't sympathize much with his character, you do become invested in his overall outcome. However, the plot of the film slows (or grinds to a halt) at points and some of the actions by Llewyn Davis just don't make much sense. Additionally, the movie leaves the viewers with an unsatisfying end to an interesting, but ultimately unfulfilling story. 

Rent it.

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