Sunday, December 22, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis – Review

Inside Llewyn Davis – Review

For starters, there is no bigger fan of the Coen Brothers legacy of films then me (i.e., Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Fargo & No Country for Old Men), so it’s with a bit of regret that while the majority of established film critics seem to anoint their latest effort “Inside Llewyn Davis” as one of the top 10 films for 2013 (including Rotten Tomatoes collective score of 95), I found the film to be at its best mildly entertaining with some occasionally funny moments, but short on real lasting appeal. To me “Inside Llewyn Davis” was less of a story of man’s musical struggles in a historical period and more of a meandering tale more simply aligned to someone’s far more personal journey of emotional bewilderment

Texturally, the movie while it looks like it was shot in black and white, it was not. I would presume it was a subtle technical attempt to capture the early 1960s atmosphere of smoky tightly packed no named basement clubs where artist of that generation struggled mightily for their success, similarly to those who really  went on to set new standards in music for that generation and our times (i.e. Bob Dylan). The Coen’s attempt to recreate this by singularly focusing their lens on a fictional young man in New York who as you would expect a struggling folk singer.

With a backdrop of some fabulous music especially the opening song (sung in its entirety), we are realistically drawn to Davis’s ambition in becoming a success at all practical cost. Specifically, we see the inevitable mixture of his energy and high hopes and the inevitable plight of suffering from perpetual rejections, financial instability and functional homelessness. We also get a bit of amusing humor at his ability to pre-strategically calculate new ways each night after a performance in finding both friends and strangers to coax them into letting him sleep on their home living room couch.

But these early compelling strengths of the film slowly give way to a character that becomes less empathetic and less known to us. He becomes more baffling, less realized and less clear to his own story. Under normal circumstances a film is crafted with each passing scene into making it feel we should be rooting for him to succeed but for some reason this never quite takes hold. Ultimately for me, I found Llewyn Davis as much a stranger in the end of the film as he was in the beginning.

The Coen’s seemly wanted to use Llewyn Davis as a way to celebrate and create broad appeal to this unique period in American music. But what didn’t work for me because it was just too much to put on the back of their one note character “Llewyn Davis” into carry this film’s entire plot across the finish line. Structurally the flaw appears to be they never ever introduced – developed the right supporting characters for Davis to draw comparative strength from.

Also, there was some oddness to this film. Without giving anything away there is a 30 minute segment in the middle of the film that involved a round trip road trip to Chicago involving a back seat ranting elderly man (John Goodman) who is chauffeured by a chain smoking driver (more of a biker looking type) who states he’s out of cigarettes but constantly smokes, a domestic house cat with flight issues and finally a series of inexplicable scenes involving 40 minute roadside bathroom breaks.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” does have some appeal and it is occasionally interesting to watch, but for its 1 hour 45 minutes running time it seemed to put way too much of a burden on actor Oscar Isaac (Llewyn Davis) to being someone we should be eager to love instead of the feeling of someone you just end up liking and even that was a chore.

There’s a good chance “Inside Llewyn Davis” will probably be nominated for Best Picture (a potential 10 nominees each year) and while I enjoyed it for the interesting effort and execution that the Coen Brothers always seemly bring to their films, for me it is not one of my top10 films for 2013 and not something I would suggest you have to rush out to the theater to see..

3 – 1/4 Stars    

No comments:

Post a Comment