MOVIE REVIEW: Inside Llewyn Davis

There’s a lot that Inside Llewyn Davis got right, starting with an actor, Oscar Isaac in the title role, who could act, plus sing and play guitar convincingly.

insidellewyndavisI had this perfect Saturday date planned with The Wife. She had a church meeting all day until 3:30 pm. I would walk The Daughter to a friend’s house, drop her off, catch a nearby bus at 2:45, catch another bus at 3:03, get to the Spectrum Theatre about 3:15 to buy tickets for the 3:45 showing of the movie Nebraska, which I had been trying to see for a while. The Wife would meet me there.

Unfortunately, no one was home at 2:30 or 2:45. We had to take a bus downtown at 3 to go to church and intercept The Wife, then call The Daughter’s friends mom, who had mixed up the time, drove down to church, picked up the Daughter.

By then it was already 3:47, too late to see Nebraska, but barely enough time for The wife to drive us to see the 4 pm showing of Inside Llewyn Davis. This was on my list, eventually, ever since I got the soundtrack of this Coen brothers film for Christmas, which I liked.

There’s a lot that this movie got right, starting with an actor, Oscar Isaac in the title role, who could act, plus sing and play guitar convincingly. The atmosphere of 1961 Greenwich Village folk scene felt authentic. The other performers in the club, including one played by Justin Timberlake, were solid. And that hit song, Please Mr. Kennedy was a hoot.

The other characters, including Jean (Carey Mulligan), who has a hate/tolerate relationship with Llewyn, the uptown art supporters the Gorfeins (Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett), his agent, the club owner, the record producer all felt quite on the mark. The side story with the John Goodman character was kind of strange, but I could accept that too.

And I’ve felt as adrift as Llewyn, with some of my stuff stored here and there, especially in the mid-1970s.

The problem with the film for me was that when it was over, I had the sense, quoting the song NOT in the film, “Is that all there is?” He goes through the whole movie and, quite literally, ends up where he began. It’s only a week in the life, but it was oddly unsatisfying; somehow I wanted more…something. Character development, maybe.
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ADDENDUM
SamuraiFrog noted that “Llewelyn Davies is the name of the family with all the kids that inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan (one of the boys was named Peter).” This made him, and me, wonder “if the Coen Brothers chose a name so similar on purpose, since growing up seems to be one of Llewyn’s issues.” If he hadn’t seen Finding Neverland years ago [which I did too, but forgot this detail], he might never have made the connection.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

6 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW: Inside Llewyn Davis”

  1. I think it’s more about character observation than character development. I enjoyed it, but it’s definitely a minor Coen Bros. achievement compared to Fargo, No Country for Old Men or The Big Lebowski.

  2. The Coen Brothers are odd folks in that ending matter… but the switch they pulled to explain the ending was brill, in my opinion. Oscar Isaac, where have you been all my life? Lens loves him, he’s a great actor (if stuck in the Alan Arkin mode a bit), and the singing and playing were suburb. Reminded me a bit of the film “Once,” which I still have in DVD, albeit a used one.

    The whole club scene was faithfully re-enacted, and did you notice on the soundtrack whose vocals were on the obviously Dylan performer who followed Lleywn at the end? Icing on the cake. Thanks, Rog. Amy

  3. Oh, I thought it was authentic feeling, and Isaac was brilliant. I just didn’t care about Llewyn very much.

  4. By the end of the movie it was clear that Llewyn was a complete screwup who couldn’t figure out how to grab opportunity even when it fell on his head. I kept expecting him to commit suicide, but he was such a screwup he couldn’t even manage that.

    For me watching him fail at everything wasn’t depressing, somehow I found it entertaining. I mean, it’s not like he didn’t choose to live the way he did, ignoring the present and waiting for some kind of success to fall on his head. Plus, let’s face it, the guy was jerk.

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