Stuck in the past? Check. Pursuing a fleeting dream? Check. Disappointed family members? Double check. Enter, quarter-life crisis —Oh, I’m talking about the movie by the way—.
Inside Llewyn Davis?
It’s 1961 and Llewyn Davis is a young folk singer in New York. For a week, we follow his struggles to move forward in life. The hurdles just keep piling up and more than a few of those seem to be of his own making. As he bounces from couch to couch, the futility of it all becomes more and more transparent.
Inside Llewyn Davis is deeply depressing and profoundly melancholic, but it’s also beautifully made, thought-provoking and weirdly funny at times. The entire movie consists of short encounters that don’t amount to much. It’s like trying to get somewhere, without having a destination. Frustrating to say the least, you won’t know whether to cry or to laugh. The main character’s self-destructive behavior will make you shake your head more than once. But on the other hand, it’s hard not to root for someone who is chasing after his dream. The Coen brothers are known for creating non-traditional characters and so Llewyn Davis’ actions are rarely ever motivated or explained by the story-telling. Everyone will experience this character in a different way and that’s the beauty of this film.
Oscar Isaac is a revelation as the tortured artist. No matter how you feel about the character, Isaac never stops being convincing. The same goes for the amazingly diverse supporting cast; Justin Timberlake as the innocent goody two-shoes, John Goodman as the snoring, vicious bully; and Carey Mulligan as the bittersweet lover. And let’s not forget our MVP, Ulysses the cat.
The entire thing is pieced together with bits of folk music and a gray color grading. The music is what keeps the story flowing, in an otherwise slowly paced movie. It’s also what defines, not only Isaac’s character, but also the other musicians and the differences between them. As for the color, it’s an incredibly bold move from the directors’ part and it pays off. It sets the tone throughout the movie and it adds an inexplicable sense of frustration to the already disheartening events.
Inside Llewyn Davis is not easy to watch, but it’s also a unique —and potentially eye-opening— experience. It’s a gloomy mix of melancholy, crushed dreams and a pinch of folk music. Masterfully told and with a subtle eye for detail. The movie might feel like a drag at times, but the (a)typical “Coen” twist at the end will leave you thinking. Whether you want it or not.
Inside Llewyn Davis is the movie equivalent of a:
The one you will always remember. You can’t even recall what you ever liked about it and you might never see it again. Yet you won’t stop thinking about it. Sigh.
Suitable for: Anyone who has a melancholy fetish and appreciates a Bob Dylan reference.
Not suitable for: Anyone who is still planning to smile today.
Writers/Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
Duration: 104 minutes