Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

Inside Llewyn DavisWhen he accidentally locks himself out of a friend’s apartment with their tabby cat, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is forced to have a bit of a rethink. Whereas what he really needs to do is reevaluate his life — he’s a struggling musician, living on a variety of friends’ sofas and accidentally getting their girlfriends pregnant — Davis instead drops the Gorfeins’ cat off with Jim (Justin Timberlake) and Jean (Carey Mulligan), and later joins Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund) and Roland Turner (John Goodman) on a road trip to Chicago, where a producer had been sent a copy of his album, Inside Llewyn Davis but had yet to respond.

When it comes to esteemed directorial collaborators, the Coen brothers are almost the antithesis of the Wachowski siblings. Whereas the latter tell big, sprawling stories that span generations, cross science with philosophy, and push the envelope in terms of independent, effects-heavy film-making, Joel and Ethan Coen are better known for their smaller, simpler, quirkier films — alternating between ensemble capers and individual character studies.

Inside Llewyn Davis fits more in the latter camp, and follows the critically panned, Coen-produced Gambit and the award-nominated, Coen-directed True Grit. As usual, the Coen’s latest is handsomely shot (with Bruno Delbonnel replacing usual collaborator Roger Deakins), thoughtfully acted (with Isaacs and Goodman impressing most) and wryly written (even if Mulligan gets little more to say than “asshole”). But it is also slight, and as technically astute as the film might be it just isn’t interesting or eventful enough to always engage.

Although admittedly inspired by the autobiography of Dave Van Ronk, Inside Llewyn Davis feels as though it is slavishly adhering to real life events. Given just how intricately structured some of the Coens’ films are, the wanton lack of direction let alone dramatic narrative here is striking. Characters disappear never to be seen again, subplots are dropped before they have even begun and scenes are revisited for very little apparent reason. When the film finally reaches its conclusion — not that it truly has one, just as it lacks a proper beginning — Davis has learnt nothing, and remains unchanged by his plight.

You always want to root for the underdog, and Llewyn comes from a proud and prolific tradition of artists trying to make it in a world that doesn’t appreciate their work. Sympathy just isn’t enough, however, and as talented as Davis clearly is — the music throughout is terrific — you can’t help but eventually lose patience. I liked the cat though; the cat was good.

3-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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