Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2013 Awards Circuit: Inside Llewyn Davis Review

2013 Awards Circuit 

Inside Llewyn Davis Review
The 2013 Awards Circuit will be a collection of reviews of films that are in some kind of award running within the months of January through March. Not only will this prepare me for the big night (AKA Oscar Night), but it will also allow me to catch up with some of the critically acclaimed films I missed in 2013. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy watching and writing them.

I have already got a bad habit on this blog. I say the same stuff too much.

If you've noticed, I am truly sorry. I have never meant to sound like a skipping record (pun intended here). I just get overly passionate when I sit down to write on this thing, especially when I am writing about favorite actors, movies or directors. Its not secret, I find the Coen Brothers to be American gems. Their film work encompasses multiple genres, and whether the final project is good or bad, its almost always memorable.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" seems very different compared to the other films in the Coen's library. Its not a piercing thriller nor a in-your-face comedy. I like that the Coen's are trying to branch out into other territory. "Inside Llewyn Davis" is the story of a folk musician Llewyn Davis and his struggles to make money with folk music during the 1960's. As his music career suffers, so does his personal life and how the two collide is the subject matter for the movie. Even though the Coen's are playing with different subject matter, their signatures and styles are laced throughout the entire movie. The smart talking of all their scripts is alive and well here too, and that alone got me interested.

Even though this feels like a normal Coen brothers movie, I think this is one of their more important films they have ever made. I think anybody auditioning for "The Voice" or "American Idol" or the seemingly dozens of other clones of either of those shows should see "Inside Llewyn Davis" before they audition. Usually musical career films like this show the best case scenario, but knowing the Coen's they didn't choose that path. This is the worst case scenario. Davis (Oscar Isaac) is constantly rejected as he tries to make money off his record (entitled "Inside Llewyn Davis"). We view him struggle to really find his big break and I can't help but notice that this parallels real life. Lots of people everyday dream big and try to make it into the big time, but it never happens. I always feel bad and I don't think people should just not pursue their dreams simply because its not realistic. However, this movie features an important reminder, have a plan B of sorts. Not only that, but while the title of his record is called "Inside Llewyn Davis" the movie is actually about him as a person. We learn about his personal life, we learn he used to have a partner in his music career and other insight. I thought it was clever how the title of the record paralleled the story itself.

I feel Oscar Isaac is on a collision course to become a big star, and I wish an Oscar Nod could have helped that. He is the glue of the entire movie, he is in front of the camera pretty much the whole running time. Sure, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham and Adam Driver show up, but its Isaac that drives this boat. If we don't believe Isaac's performance, the film would fall flat. But it doesn't, this is the best acting Isaac has ever done, and I've liked quite a many of his performances. The rest of the cast is solid, and I think its interesting how people come and go at a moments notice, similar to random, special people we meet in life.

A lot of Coen style is on display in this film, but that is also a trait that works against it. Many people love the Coen style, while others detest it. An example is pacing, and I think the quiet moments in this film are almost too quiet. There is one stretch of film will Davis is traveling from New York to Chicago by car with musicians Johnny Drive (Hedlund) and Roland Turner (Goodman). The typical bizarre comic we have come to love from the Coen's is on full display in this stretch of film and I certainly laughed at some of it. But it nearly stops the film cold, with a resolution that is overall pointless. I feel even the most supportive of Coen fans will have trouble with this stretch, but it didn't lessen the film a bit.

Of course, there is the music. A movie about music should have great music, right? I am happy to say that "Inside Llewyn Davis" had great music. I am nowhere near being a huge folk music guy, but I couldn't help but connect to the music in this film. I don't know if it compares to "Man of Constant Sorrow" from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" but I am shocked the film got no Academy attention for the music. These are catchy songs you'll listen to in your head after viewing this film, couldn't ask for more than that.

While the sound mixing and cinematography were both solid, I feel "Inside Llewyn Davis" should have been nominated for more categories, especially for music. There was a lot this film offered, and I think each of you should check this out, even if you're not a Coen fan. It an entirely different genre for the brothers and they ran into it fearless. This movie didn't hit me over the head like Coen brother films do, but I have a feeling that this will be a film that grows on me with repeat viewings. I hope you find the same pleasure too.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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