Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Inside Llewyn Davis" (2013) - Movie Review

What drives the Coen brothers to make a feature like “Inside Llewyn Davis” or any of their venture? They are uncompromising in their productions similar to the titular character of this film. Something really focussed and strong comes out of their films even if the viewer does not really enjoy it. There is a selfless appreciation for it and  then leave the theatre little bit confused of this conflicting reaction. If not anyone, at least this reviewer does most of the times.

They place Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis in the winter of 1961 at New York. An aspiring folk singer, Llewyn is homeless and penniless. He has friends that have become sick of him and there are friends whom he can abuse and erupt one night and still go back for shelter the next day. Llewyn is at the junction in his life as he approaches the breaking point on waiting for that break. His musical partner has committed suicide and he denies to stand behind or join up with another singer. His solo album does not appear to go anywhere especially with his not so helpful record label producer. I am trying to explain it like a plot but there is not any. I believe if you are the person who enjoys folks music and have been in the New York in those times or fascinated by it, it might be such a pleasure to see this fictional struggling artist stepping up stairs, ringing up people, walking through a canal like corridors and evading cold in his cheap jacket. If you are not, then it becomes all of those sans the appreciation for the music it is based on.

The songs of course are essential for a film like this and as much as I was not able to involve and immerse in to the music, it adds the melodic mood. The mood that can be pictured in a dark empty room with just enough light to shine on the ragged poet reading sad verses. He is the performer and the audience. “Inside Llewyn Davis” while has other characters, most of them cannot stand the sight of Llewyn when he is not playing while others are moderately kind and downright indifferent. Llewyn in his artistic spirit and arrogance have run these people to that state though he has shed those and carries the ashes of the burned ego in him.

Apart from his money problems, he has personal issue when his friend Jim’s (Justin Timberlake) wife Jean (Carey Mulligan) says she is pregnant. She regrets sleeping with this man and thoroughly hates him. Llewyn takes it and walks along the side paths of this dreadful city that appears to have no mercy towards him. He has learned to take abuse and there is nothing worse apparently than walking distraught and hopeless. Yet he sings majestically with poetic soul.

While sympathy looms over this character, there is an underlying tone that he is also part of the reason for the situation. True talented people believe giving their entire life to that talent. They see the completeness of their life is through making a living out of it. That appears to be their accomplishment, at least that is how it begins. The reality though begs to differ in that opinion. I cannot relate to the fact that someone who not only is gifted and knows they are gifted have the desire to fulfill that gift by making a life out of it. But to achieve greatness you have to risk everything. As we are watching Llewyn Davis going through the tough life of his, his only peaceful and true moments are when he is singing and playing his guitar. Rest of the time, his struggle is marked up with some dubious characters. Two such are Roland Turner (John Goodman) and Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund) who are taking him to Chicago in exchange for gas money. Llewyn is heading to meet the man who can let him play in one of his club that might be his last straw. The man out there (F. Murray Abraham) sees something in Llewyn and auditions him. He plays a song and you see the man staring at him moved certainly but gives him straight on what is the future.

And then there is the cat that was “thrown into it” for a plot as per the Coen brothers. It does become a parallel commentary as Llewyn accidentally lets it out from his professor friend Mitch Gorfein (Ethan Phillips) that becomes his assumed responsibility to take care of it. While personally not a cat lover myself, I would be as Davis would be running around to make sure it has its life taken care of and let it off as a responsibility at the first sight. Yet that is the only connection he begins to have with a living soul. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is the film that can be daringly made by directors like the Coen brothers and walk off satisfying their artistic spirit. Strangely Llewyn wants something like that but unlike Coen brothers do not get to be successful.

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