Foiled Again by the Coen Brothers: A Vague Review of Inside Llewyn Davis

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Preamble: Since I am not Mr. Monopoly or dripping with Faberge eggs, I can’t afford to go to the movies as much as I want. (Add in some snowcaps and a Mr. Pibb and that shizz gets pricey.)  In 2013, I probably saw only about 12 films in theaters. More than half of these trips were preparing me for the award show season, which is now upon us. I’m a crazy person in that respect and prep for an impending award show like it’s the freakin’ ACTs. If it’s nominated for multiple Oscars, Golden Globes, or hell…even Razzies- then there is likely a ticket stub for it in the bottom of my purse.

With all this binge watching, the one movie going experience that has caused me the most consternation is Inside Llewyn Davis, now playing in limited release. It’s been about 24 hours since I saw it at Nashville’s Belcourt Theater, and I can avow that I have spent a healthy chunk of that 24 hours frantically googling, discussing and contemplating this film. Weird structure and possible hidden meanings are stressing me out. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this movie, but it’s gonna linger. Be prepared.

Because the trailers just show a hot bearded hipster chasing a cat around New York with beautiful soaring folks tunes swelling in the background, I had no idea what this movie was really about, and frankly, I was A-OK with that.  Blank slates are good right?

Here are the facts I knew about Inside Llewyn Davis prior to viewing:

1.     It’s the Cohen Brothers…so expect the unexpected.

2.     It’s about 60’s folk music (which I love because John Denver is my spirit animal.)

3.     Justin Timberlake and John Goodman are involved.  (Not romantically…but rather with the film. Don’t be a creep.)

Here is what I didn’t expect:

1. Two different actors from Girls to show up randomly throughout the film. Oh hi, Ray and Adam! (I swear I was half expecting Shoshanna to turn up in a folk duet.)

2. To actually really like the music so much so that I now own the album.

3. To  care deeply about a cat.  What can I say…I am not a cat person.

It’s so hard to review this movie about a floundering folk musician struggling to find his place in this world without a million spoilers. Because I want you to be a blank slate like me, this is bound to be super vague- but here goes.

 

Over the course of the two-hour viewing, a lot transpires, but nothing happens. You are introduced very fleetingly to a myriad of colorful characters. Highly billed names like Goodman and Timberlake added together only get about 20 minutes of screen time, while relative unknown Oscar Issacs (the hotter doppelganger of David Kromholtz from Numbers) holds the camera on him for the entirety with a weird indifferent magnetism.

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There is no dramatic plot arch or noticeable character development, but the viewer is still  intrigued and for some inexplicable reason, you care about the lead, who is essentially a real a-hole. Inside Llewyn Davis ends abruptly, and you are left saying 2 words on repeat:

Wait. What?”

If you have seen The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading or No Country for Old Men, you are well aware that Coen brothers films are meant for multiple viewings. One can assume the first viewing is ALWAYS the ever-baffling “what the hell did I just witness?” one.  I am still living in that stage. From experience, I know the initial utter confusion will lead to speculation, over-analyzing and theory-making  before I decide if I like it or not. The fact that it is still haunting me is evidence that this movie is powerful, and that I probably think it is worthy of the hype.

It is much more than a bearded dude chasing a cat through the subway. It’s a movie about depression, loss and dream chasing. It is frustrating at times and not particularly uplifting, but you will laugh and tap your foot along throughout the 2 hours of movie watching.

OK, now that you are utterly befuddled, bookmark this page. Once you see it, check out these links ripe with spoilers. Your mind will go into hyperdrive:

http://m.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2013/12/deeper-inside-llewyn-davis.html

http://blogs.indiewire.com/criticwire/inside-llewyn-davis-isnt-about-failure-its-about-depression

 

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