Saturday, February 1, 2014

Movie Review #4: Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen brothers are a name you've probably heard of, even if you're not familiar with them directly. I'm still working on connecting movies with directors, something I wasn't all that focused on until I started living with a movie buff.

So, for me, the Coen brothers were a name I had heard of, but I couldn't have told you any of the movies they'd made. Now I'm kind of working through their filmography. I've seen O Brother Where Art Thou, True Grit, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski; all very different movies, yet all very good.

Inside Llewyn Davis is no exception.


Llewyn Davis is a struggling folk musician bumming around the boroughs of New York. The movie chronicles a week of his life as he struggles to make a comfortable living despite a falling out with his record label, a runaway cat, weirdos, and his unlikable personality.

Spoiler-free review: if you enjoy character studies, folk music, cats, or other Coen brothers movies, you should watch this movie. If you don't know if you like folk music, here's a scene from the movie in which Davis sings a song. To quote the movie, "it was never young and it'll never get old, that's a folk song."


I'd like to preface this review by mentioning a blog post written by an acquaintance of mine, Zac Gorman. In it, he talks about the relationship between work and happiness, specifically how naive the concept of "do what makes you happy" is, despite the fact that he drew a very popular comic about it. Specifically, he recalls seeing his parents working all the time, never being happy about their jobs, and he decided he would never be like that. Instead, he'd be an artist!

Except, it turned out that art was work, too. And although he could be proud of what he made, proud that other people liked the things he made, that didn't make the creation of art any less difficult.

I get the impression that Inside Llewyn Davis is a story about a man who had a similar experience, but instead of finding success in the place he chose to run to instead of working like his parents, he finds failure.

Thematically speaking, Inside Llewyn Davis is a story about losers, and Davis himself is a loser in exactly the right way to ensure that he'll probably never be happy. But this is a realization that takes some time to arrive.

At the beginning of the movie we're introduced to Davis as he sings a sad, sweet song to an appreciative crowd, like a bard using the fascinate ability. Soon after we're seeing him in a nice apartment making breakfast, though it quickly becomes clear that he's a couch surfer.

From there, it's one revelation after another that this man has got precisely two gifts: the ability to sing folk music, and the ability to be an asshole. He runs from his problems constantly, with one exception: the cat.

The cat, more than anything else, keeps us rooting for Llewyn despite himself. Even as he mooches, yells at people who don't deserve it, and tries to bury/run from his problems, he gets a series of literal "save the cat" moments that keep him personable.

Until the moment he finally just stops saving the cat. After this point, Llewyn is told in no uncertain terms that he's frankly not marketable on his own. He's talented, sure, but he needs a group, especially a front man to deal with people.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a sad, honest movie. However, it's the very fact that Davis is so unlikable and flawed that makes him relatable, even though we don't want him to be.

There's lots more to talk about here, but there's no way I can go over every small, awesome moment in this movie. Suffice to say, though, that though the movie feels a bit melancholy as a whole, scene for scene the movie is always engaging, often funny, and simply beautiful.


Remember how I said earlier that you should go watch the movie if you have an interest in character studies, folk music, or cats? Screw that. Go watch this movie. You'll enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you liked it!

    The Coen Brothers have been my favorite filmmakers ever since I started paying attention to directors, which was pretty recent for me, too. Try No Country For Old Men for your next Coen Brothers movie.