So why have I given it 5 stars? The protagonist is unlikeable, the film sometimes falls into self indulgence and there is that lack of narrative drive that Coen Brothers movies sometimes lapse into. But, it also captures the life of the artist fantastically well. Oscar Isaac inhabits the part of Llewyn Davis to the extent that I simply can't imagine anyone else playing him. The other members of the cast also do a great job; Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and John Goodman all play their parts well, but Isaac has the stand out performance. He is fascinating to watch, I found him a charismatic live performer, but his character hasn't found success and is wearing out the patience of friends as he camps on their sofas.
The Coen Brothers are without parallel in summoning up mood and investing places with poetry. I have watched this twice and will watch it again. It also benefits from having a great piece on the making of the film on the DVD which gaves some real insight into how the brothers work on their films.
If you like the more mood oriented Coen brothers films you'll like this, if you don't you won't.
on 17 October 2015
Negative reviews deterred me from watching this for some time, but I shouldn't have let them. This is an aesthetically striking independent film about the disconnect between talent and success, about depression and sacrifice and the curdling of youthful dreams, and about failure in America, a pitiless place when it comes to that. It is not an attempt to tell the whole story of the Greenwich Village folk scene, or to recreate the sixties, and if you watch it for that reason you won't get it. It is also an intelligent and adult film in its sense of the complexity of its characters and their activities. The interiority is the interiority of a depressed mind. Plenty of randomness and borderline absurdity along the way, as well.
on 3 February 2016
Oh my god, how I love this movie. I love this movie so much that, the minute, it finishes, I consider putting it on again. I have pretty much always been a Coen Brothers fan. With a couple of exceptions, the likes of Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. They are total masters of their craft and they have created so many weird and wonderful worlds. I love their comedies, I love their dark dramas. I don't mind they made me listen to bluegrass music. You get the idea. This, though, for me is one of their best. The cast is fantastic, the tone is spot on, the music and the dialogue and the feel of the movie just work together near perfectly. There are sections of it that feel like they're set in a world of parables and subtext, like the sequence featuring another classic performance by John Goodman. This movie really is one of my all time favourites.
If you're not sure about watching this I won't lecture you and, if you don't like it, I won't break my back defending it. I love it too much for that. I'm blinkered by it. What I would suggest is this; watch the trailer. If you like the look of the trailer they ran in cinemas before it came out, then you will like the movie.
Man, I may just have to watch it again now.
This is very much a week in a life of musician Llewyn Davis, our main character lives on other peoples sofas in Greenwich Village (New York city) of the 1960s. He is struggling to make it as an artist, with cat in tow our Llewyn Davis needs to make his career a success, however, the odds are against him - much of the obstacles he faces are pretty much of his own making. He tries his best, to get whatever he can; he is very much beholden to both friends and strangers to eke out his living. His journey takes him from the Village to Chicago - to hopefully get a contract with a musical agent, one Bud Grossman.
For me this was subtle film the characters are all well drawn out, what you have is a decent and relatively original narrative. For this is a casual tragedy and hubris of the journeyman musician The Coen Brothers have made another pretty decent movie.You have to just love the cat that Davis takes pretty much everywhere in his travels. The odyssey of his journey and the misadventures we see him go through, are what makes this film really work. Add into the mix a very well done soundtrack, the film is cat friendly and the result makes for very good entertainment.
Despite a journey into the 'surreal', courtesy of their most recent efforts, I remain a big fan of most Coen brothers films; excepting the rather pointless/ineffective 'The Ladykillers' and 'Gambit', they have many good points with some ('Fargo', 'No Country for Old Men') bordering on brilliance.
Following the good (but very weird) 'A Serious Man', a return to something approaching Coen 'normality' courtesy of the very good 'True Grit' (and then skipping 'Gambit') has proven to be somewhat short-lived with this most recent disc release - I think it is often as enigmatic as 'A Serious Man' and, due in no small part to an emphasis on musicality, is potentially as 'inaccessible' for many; but especially as it is particularly slow-paced.....
A bonus is that on Blu-ray the presentation of 'Inside Llewyn Davis' is very good, with a sumptuous and well-defined picture to depict the mostly very dark scenes and/or 'spotlit' interiors.
I am able to state with certainty how good the almost pastel palette and dark surroundings of this film are portrayed to us in HD as I also own the DVD, which shows things to be positively 'murky' and blurred - watch this film in SD and you are missing a massive element of it's production 'intentions'....
However, despite there being a lot of musicality in the soundtrack, as it is rarely very involved or spatial I don't think the Blu-ray DTS-HD Master Audio variant offers much more than the DD5.1 of the DVD.
The overall plot is not that complicated and the Amazon synopsis does a good job without any spoilers; however, the detail is where the weirdness of this film is revealed, and there are more than the usual number of occurrences to provoke thought and differences in understanding amongst us....
The best way to start my limited analysis of this movie is by stating that the title is IMHO misleading, as it should really be 'Outside Llewyn Davis', since we rarely gain any true insight into the thoughts of the strangely likeable, yet fairly unpleasant, lead character. What we DO get is an opportunity to witness his usually selfish behaviour and reactive expressions/comments to the frequent series of 'incidents' and situations which befall him - most of which are either well-deserved or a direct consequence of his thoughtless/rude actions; an important contrast to the lead character in 'A Serious Man', who is largely a blameless victim....
So, the strange 'likeability' of Llewyn Davis and the continual series of 'weirdness' is what captured my interest and complete the journey of watching this film; the other important factor being the performance of Oscar Isaac in the lead role, who has once again proved himself to me to be a most accomplished artist. He not only looks different, but acts differently in this and the previous films I've seen him in (viewing order: 'Ex Machina', 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and 'A Most Violent Year') - 4 wildly different personas in 4 VERY different films....
*** Small Potential Spoilers
and then there is the cat.....
Well, two cats actually - and I feel the presence of both is significant to the meaning of the plot but cannot fathom it out. I have read many synopsis analysing the plot and cat roles/'importance' to it, BUT feel they have all missed whatever the point is; acknowledge the fact that they are not only different sexes, and feature independently in certain key scenes, and the results of all those attempts at analysing are IMHO scotched....
Like 'A Serious Man', what we again get is an enigmatic ending - except on this occasion I don't feel that I understood it, if there was a point to it that is ! One thing I did feel was the potential for a 'parallel universe' ingredient to the plot, since the ending has similar elements to the opening scene, but is different in some important respects
*** End of Potential Spoilers
Other enjoyable attributes of this movie are the usual Coen 'quirks' (eg most things cat-related and the colourful characters, both long-standing or in the guise of cameo appearances), wacky occurrences and the cinematography (despite the absence of Roger Deakins) - plus the usual period delights, a common Coen trait since they rarely do 'modern'....
As hinted at earlier, on Blu-ray everything is presented very well - a lovely rich, if (again) slightly washed-out picture and a clear DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Occasionally I felt I was watching a black and white movie, such is the dominance of dark scenes and the prevalence of such a neutral/pastel palette; remembering the period-settings which also instil a feeling of days gone by. Only once I glanced at the DVD offering of this film did I appreciate how good the HD presentation is, with so much more detail and luminance - showing what exists in the background in otherwise murky patches when viewed in SD....
A shortfall with the Blu-ray and DVD is with the extras, which are once again VERY skimpy for such a deserving case. This point is proven by the fact that the US (Region A locked unfortunately) release by Criterion adds several worthwhile-looking featurettes. I've yet to see if the one extra we get (same on Blu-ray and DVD), a featurette entitled 'Inside Inside Llewyn Davis', is in any way enlightening - it had better be, otherwise it's running time of over 40mins is gong to be a bit tiresome !
I've attached a photo of the back of the disc box to show all the disc info, as it's not already on the main Amazon page.
I really liked 'Inside Llewyn Davis', but am glad that I watched it first on Blu-ray as the DVD presentation is somewhat deficient - a crucial factor when the visuals of this film are such an important element.
If I didn't already know this was a Coen brothers film I might not have realised it, though the hallmarks are all there - the darkly comedic spin to proceedings as the hapless, incredibly unlucky Davis struggles to both survive and try to achieve recognition as a performer while encountering a series of unfortunate events and a cast of flawed but believable characters.
The structure of the film captures Davis` merry-go-round situation as a talented but unrecognised folk singer, hampered by the indifference of the music business and his own particular character flaws. I suspect the cat is a metaphor for something but, y`know - it`s the Coens - their claim is that the cat is there to provide viewers with a focus because there isn't really a plot; can you take their glib statement at face value? There is a deliberate visual reference to an iconic cliché - look at the freewheelin` appropriation of imagery on the cover of the DVD (also consider the name of the venue on the right of the picture) and a few in-jokes about folk performers. This is all very playful, but it`s ultimately a bleak film, set in winter with a very subdued colour palette; the cinematography, writing and - of course - the music is excellent.
The acting at all levels is superb, even the minor roles are well-cast and spot-on.
Though set in Greenwich Village at the time of the folk revival, there isn't much of the creative buzz of the place in evidence, as the story concentrates on Davis` personal journey.
The Coens have chosen a fairly esoteric subject for this film; I don`t think it`s likely to appeal to a large viewership, but it`s a fine production all the same. I loved it - bleak though it is - as I`m sympathetic to the period and the music. If you`re from a generation too young to be familiar with this, you may find it tedious; feel free to deduct a star from my rating. If you don`t like folk music, deduct another; otherwise, this is a gem.
The film has a run-time of 1hour 40 mins., has audio descriptive subtitles (so you can sing along to "The Auld Triangle" if you wish) and has a 40 min. documentary as an extra.
The Coen Brothers are always going to make an exceptional film, but not always one that you would expect. This falls into the latter category. Set in 1961 we follow a short time in the life of Llewyn Davies; he is barely scraping a living playing bars and hoping to get some royalties. He was in a duo that had shifted some units and then his singing mate jumped off The Washington Bridge.
Then after getting a kicking in an alleyway he gets taken in by a fan - he manages to let their cat escape and so starts a bit of an odyssey carting this cat from place to place till he can reunite it. He is also sleeping on the couch of his best friend Jim (Justin Timberlake) and has been sleeping with Jean - Jim's wife. Everywhere he goes he seems to make things worse as his sister says he has the Midas Touch in reverse. So he goes on a road trip to Chicago to try his luck there as the New York winter in Greenwich Village seems to hold no joy for him. He takes car share with drug addled jazz musician Roland Turner - John Goodman in a bravura performance.
The songs are done beautifully and Oscar Isaac as Llewyn is a piece of perfect casting - he can sing too and is very engaging. The part players are all spot on and the attention to detail is done with care and an eye for the authentic. The cars are often dirty and the streets look 1960's New York. This though is not a celebration of `folk' music - it is a rather sad tale of a man trying and not really getting anywhere yet keeping the will to go on. There is a feeling of going round in circles which is exemplified by the ending - as if he will never learn from his mistakes. When it did end I was in two minds about what I felt; I thought on it for a number of days and realised that just because it is hard to pigeon hole does not make this a bad film - it makes you think, it is entertaining, it is a tad depressing and yet it is undoubtedly about life, art and love and as such I can only recommend this highly original film.
on 1 November 2014
Its not an action film, nothing really happens, if you don't like films like that (my girlfriend doesn't, she says its pointless) don't watch. I however love films like this. Its an exploration of character, the struggles of being a musician and having an artists temperament, oh yes and a ginger cat! Plus his voice is beautiful and features a lot of songs which I was absorbed into. A lovely gentle absorbing film that lets you sink into it.
A sweet period piece, this film bears all the hallmarks of the Coen's aside from their particular directorial stamp, reminding me of a great unmade film about the invisible rival to Bob Dylan, a dark comedy. As it happens, the slow escalation of events to improbable results - and a great subplot about a cat - with a basic, almost plotless set of occasional events and arguments as a struggling acoustic musician, the film instead rests on character and a slow burning understatement. It's a delicate film, which ; instead of setting out a huge plot is a small character study, with moments of immense poignancy that are played matter of factly, The film turns into a road movie at a certain point, with a great turn from John Goodman. If nothing else, It's a Coen film in all but name, and designed for a slow reflection, a timely view, a quiet think.
on 6 June 2015
I was surprised to learn this was a comedy. Apart from one hilarious moment with the cat and something missing, it was a sorry tale of missed opportunities and misfortunes. Great music and cast. Many of the characters were not very likeable which made it less comic. I bought it for my interest in Dave van Ronk. I think I need to watch it again and will probably enjoy it more the second time. A very good period piece capturing the atmosphere of the Village in the 60's. Coen Brothers great directors. The extras showing you how it was made were particularly enjoyable.