Does the holiday season already depress you? Well, here’s the perfect movie for you.
Llewyn Davis is a folk singer navigating the New York music scene in the 1960’s, and he can’t ever seem to catch a break. Crashing on couches and struggling to make ends meet, Llewyn is a selfish loser who’s extremely talented with a guitar. Unwilling to compromise his art and unable to fix his past mistakes, Llewyn goes on a bleak journey over the course of a week that demonstrates how his poor choices leave him in an endless cycle of disappointment and dysfunction.
Llewyn Davis has one of the best original soundtracks in recent memory, offering a number of soulful musical stylings from music supervisors T Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford. Most of the dark humor is as good as anything in the Coen Brothers’ past films, and the dialogue is crisp.
But the Coen Brothers themselves have admitted that Inside Llewyn Davis has no real plot. What may be even more frustrating than a movie that actually tries to tell a good story and fails miserably, is this. The fact that two of the most brilliantly-talented filmmakers of our generation have spent the last few years of their time and efforts crafting an aimless film with nothing to say is almost a tragedy. Inside Llewyn Davis is by no means a bad film, it even has moments of greatness… but what does it all really amount to by the time the credits roll?
Inside Llewyn Davis has already found itself on the top of many year-end lists, but in exchange for telling a story with any sense of satisfying arc or resolution, they’ve opted for an existentially-confused look at a character who never really changes or even wants to. The film tries to be poignant and profound, but instead leaves it audience confused and is unwilling to answer any of the questions it raises. It’s merely a sequence of compelling scenes, one after another, of a failed artist continuing to fail in every aspect of his life. What reason do we have to care?
+ Beautifully original soundtrack is the highlight
+ Incredible period-piece filmmaking
+ Career-making performance from Oscar Isaac
+ Equally smart and funny
+ Never a dull moment
– Ends with no answers to any questions raised
– Timeline of the film is confusing
– The story is aimless and has no clear sense of where it’s going
– Plenty of great moments, but they serve no real purpose to any overall story
The masterful Coen Brothers have made a beautiful-yet-existentially-confused film that seems to have no greater purpose than to be impressed with itself. It aims to be a melancholy look at the torment, joy, and grief experienced in every artist’s life (especially when they realize they may not be destined for glory), but falls short of delivering a satisfying story. Inside Llewyn Davis is thought-provoking, it looks stunning, and there’s never a dull moment… but what really is the point of it all?
Inside Llewyn Davis is rated R for “language and some sexual references.” This film does not contain that much offensive content besides language, but it is a very bleak film that looks at some dark aspects of life such as suicide, drug use, and unwanted pregnancies. For this reason, it is probably best for only adult audiences.
© Matt Tory, 2013.