Inside Llewyn Davis Reviews
SCOTT: (Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond) Better to be inside than outside on a cold day like today.
GREG: We meet Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a talented young folk musician in Greenwich Village in 1961. It s the height of the folk scene and New York City is a swirl of music, drink, and culture. Llewyn has recently broken up with his partner. Their album isn t selling well and he gets by sleeping on the sofas of friends and benefactors. One friend is Jean (Carey Mulligan) who is a pretty young woman married to Jim (Justin Timberlake) who is Llewyn s best friend. The problem is, Llewyn got her pregnant and she wants him to pay for the abortion.
SCOTT: Llewyn agrees to pay, and we learn that Jean isn t the first woman whose pregnancy he has aborted. After wearing out his welcome at the usual places he crashes at, Llewyn hitchhikes to Chicago to audition for a record producer. His constant companion is a cat that belongs to a friend and that Llewyn keeps losing and finding, although it isn t always the same cat. Two odd musicians, Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund) and Roland Turner (John Goodman) give Llewyn a ride to Chicago.
GREG: Scott, Inside Llewyn Davis is a rare film in that it isn t about the plot, it s about the character. We re truly getting a look at Davis s life and his inner workings through this one-week peek into his life. He s not a perfect man. In fact, in most ways, he s not a very nice person at all. But we like him because he is true to his music. He doesn t compromise on his music in the least. He will do almost anything to play his music, his way.
SCOTT: I don t know, Greg. I didn t like him much at all. Yes, he cares about the cat, and yes, he cares about his music. But he s pretty dislikable in most other ways. I did feel sorry for him, and perhaps the film is a cautionary tale about the way that any of us can lose ourselves in a web of misguided ambition. Llewyn Davis may represent the common human drive to succeed and find happiness. But like most people, Llewyn is his own worst enemy and seems to find a way to sabotage himself at every turn. I enjoyed the movie because it is rich with symbolism and is populated by some of the most memorable characters we ve seen in the movies this year. For me, the cat symbolizes the dream that Llewyn was chasing -- ever elusive and not always quite the dream he thinks it is. And while trying to nurture it Llewyn ends up harming it.
GREG: For me, Davis is the classic suffering poet. And you re right, he can t get out of his own way. He is so focused on playing his music that he can t make a plan for the future. He lives entirely in the present. He insults people and burns bridges and never looks back. He believes his way of playing music is pure and all other forms are beneath him. I empathized with Davis, Scott. I think we all have this sense of what is right. But most of us can t make the sacrifices necessary to live the pure life. We give and take and follow the middle path. I respected Davis s commitment and his sacrifice. But it took a toll on him and his relationships. In the end, he was left alone. And that was the ultimate price he paid for perfection.
SCOTT: I didn t respect Llewyn because he leeches off of people, uses people, and abandons people. My daughter is currently an aspiring musician in New York but she has a job to support herself. Llewyn is so prideful that he deems it beneath him to be self-supporting. That kind of arrogance is his undoing, and in this way Llewyn is like many heroes who self destruct -- although I loathe to call Llewyn a hero because he never changes. He s the same loser at the end that he was at the beginning. Once again, I return to the cat. Not coincidentally, the cat is named Ulysses, the great hero of the Trojan war who spent two decades dodging enemies and obstacles while trying to get home. In the end, Ulysses makes it home -- in both myth and in this movie -- but Llewyn s long and painful journey has no such happy ending. There is only the futile repetitive pattern of arrogance and self-destruction for Llewyn.
GREG: I found I liked Davis after all. Yes, he was selfish and careless with others feelings. But he had many of the Great Eight characteristics you mention in your book. He was smart, strong, resilient, charismatic, and inspiring. The fact that he was missing caring and selfless aligns him with villain-type characters. So I would classify Davis as an anti-hero. He s dastardly, but I was still pulling for him. I bought in to his quest for pure music. And he carried me along through to the end. When I rate movies I usually ask myself what could have been better? In the case of Inside Llewyn Davis I have no complaints. This is an open-ended story. The loose ends are not neatly tied up for us. We don t get to see how he ends up and we don t ever learn why his partner committed suicide. But what we do get is a look inside a man so firmly committed to his craft that nothing else mattered. That story was perfectly delivered so I give Inside Llewyn Davis 5 out of 5 Reels. This was more of a character study than a Hero s Journey, and as we are measuring the hero by that standard I have to give Llewyn Davis 4 out of 5 Heroes. If I had known him in person, I am sure that I would have admired him. But I m not sure we could have been friends. Movie: Heroes:
SCOTT: Hard to believe we saw the same man in this movie, Greg. Llewyn Davis was far from smart; he was a fool who never learned from his mistakes. Ill credit him for being a resilient fool for picking himself up off the floor after repeating the same mistake over and over again. This pointless resilience is the only semblance of the Great Eight that I see in the man. Which is a shame because he obviously has potential, but he has so much pride and so many blinders on that he ll never realize that potential. But I agree with you that Inside Llewyn Davis is an excellent movie, as it stylishly depicts the human condition of hubris, ego, selfishness, and self-sabotage in full and ugly bloom. The Coen brothers have crafted an excellent tale of human futility here and I m happy to give it 4 Reels out of 5. The true hero of the story is the cat, Ulysses. Thrown into the unfamiliar world by the bumbling Llewyn Davis, the cat shows remarkable intelligence, strength, and resilience in making it back home. I give the cat 4 Heroes out of 5. Movie: Heroes:
This is exactly the sort of movie I hate. There seemed to be no real point to the movie. It was just kinda depressing and boring. I got this from a "Best Movies of the 21st Century" list as the best movie by the Cohen brothers and, I gotta say I just don't get it.
The writing, acting, directing, cinematography, costumes, and especially the music come together to create a modern melancholy classic.
Now, I did like the film. The acting but Oscar was fantastic as he portrayed this asshole in human form and all of the acting was top notch. The directing and cinematography was great as well, as you assume that from a Coen Brothers film. I truly liked most of it with great songs that tie into the he overall mood of the film, I just couldn't get past our protagonist that seemed more like a asshole cartoon character more than a hero.
The film won the Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where it screened on May 19, 2013. The film received critical acclaim and was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing) and for three Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Oscar Isaac), and Best Original Song. Rotten Tomatoes consensus states: "Smart, funny, and profoundly melancholy, Inside Llewyn Davis finds the Coen brothers in fine form." Writing for The Village Voice, Alan Scherstuhl praised the Coen brothers' film: "While often funny and alive with winning performances, Inside Llewyn Davis finds the brothers in a dark mood, exploring the near-inevitable disappointment that faces artists too sincere to compromise-disappointments that the Coens, to their credit, have made a career out of dodging. The result is their most affecting film since the masterful A Serious Man." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "an outstanding fictional take on the early 1960s folk music scene," praising the "fresh, resonant folk soundtrack" and Oscar Isaac's performance that "deftly manages the task of making Llewyn compulsively watchable." IGN reviewer Leigh Singer gave the film a 10 out of 10 'Masterpiece' score, saying "Don't be fooled by the seemingly minor key...this is one of the finest works by - let's just call it - the most consistently innovative, versatile and thrilling American filmmakers of the last quarter-century.'" Folk singers, however, have criticized the film for misrepresenting the friendliness of the Village folk scene of the time. Terri Thal, Dave Van Ronk's ex-wife, said, "I didn't expect it to be almost unrecognizable as the folk-music world of the early 1960s." Suzanne Vega said "I feel they took a vibrant, crackling, competitive, romantic, communal, crazy, drunken, brawling scene and crumpled it into a slow brown sad movie." The film was also criticized for the fact that, although it was to some extent based on the memoir of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the film portrayed a character very much at odds with the real Van Ronk, usually described as a "nice guy". However, at a press interview before the film was premiered at Cannes, the Coens had stated that the character itself was very much an original creation, and that the music was the major influence they had drawn from Van Ronk.
Personally I think that the Coen brothers have lost a bit of their movie magic the past years. I didnīt particularly like "Hail Caesar", but with "Inside Llewyn Davis" thereīs something that reaches a higher note. The setting of New York City's Greenwich Village in the early 60s is very nice (I canīt however
say anything about the so called "misrepresenting" of the Village folk scene some people want to push), the music is great and I love that most of the folk songs performed in the film are sung in full and recorded live (Oscar Isaac is just great), the actors but in a great job with their versatile characters and the cinematography is bleak and yet rich setting a melancholic tone. Oscar Isaacīs Llewyn Davis is however not that of a nice character stuck in a frustrating, self-made vacuum of an existence. Everybody is self-piteous and disappointed. Itīs misery. That is also part of the bigger flaws in the film. You donīt really like Llewyn and his hatred towards life in general due to his own musical failure he dreams of and his leech like actions. You donīt like any of the characters. The plot is more or less saying that creating art is difficult and only a lucky few become successful and notable. But the plot also moves in slow motion and feels scattered not really going nowhere. Joel Coen remarked that "the film doesn't really have a plot. That concerned us at one point; that's why we threw the cat in." Hmmm... It just becomes a loop in the end as it ends the way it began. Meaning life is a mere repetition of things. Yes, often we see films that focus on following our dreams and never giving up on them, but here the focus is on someone who doesn't achieve them. Good or bad? Refreshing maybe. But, I still believe that you need to like the character/characters at least a little bit despite them not being likeable while failing their dreams and hopes.