During this Oscar season, the discussion seems to be revolving around Inside Llewyn Davis. Film writers and podcasters rush to say how much they enjoyed the film. They just can’t stop talking about it. Due to financial circumstances and geographical location, I traditionally can’t see Oscar films when they are at the top of the film world talk. Instead I usually wait until they pop up on my Netflix Instant Queue or the shelves of my local video store (believe it or not I still frequent a video store. It is a local one so it makes me feel ultra indie and totally cool.) months after the adoration dies down. Sometimes it can even be years. But the consensus around this film was so uniformly good that it was getting annoying. So out of spite, I dragged my boyfriend to my local art cinema and plopped him down with an organic root beer and settled into this treat.
Oscar Isaac plays Llewyn Davis, a beautifully broke folk singer “living” in Greenwich Village in the early sixties. I say “living” because he has no stable home and no real income. He bounces from couch to couch, asking each occupant for money or food. In the harsh New York City winter, he struggles to eke out an existence while trying to stay true to his ideals.
I hate to say it, but I really liked this film. Damn, Coen Brothers. They keep proving that they are the best directors working today. Each shot, character development, incident and beautiful musical interlude screams out as completely genius. No one can truly achieve humor in a completely serious situation like the Coens do. After a moving scene where Llewyn sings to his almost vegetative father in an old folks home, his expression suddenly twists from mournful to confused. He rushes out of the room to get an orderly. Apparently while Llewyn was singing, his father shat his pants. Coens were able to bring me down, producing tears in my eyes one moment and cathartic laughter the next.
There seems to be something off about Llewyn Davis. He seems to be more somber than the rest of the people who surround him. These fellow musicians are on a path of discovery and interesting, if commercial music. But Llewyn can’t seem to achieve the same thing. He is doing the exact same thing they are doing, but nothing seems to turn out well. This subjective view of his life seems to come from the very recent loss of his partner in music. He is pulling around this brick of guilt and grief that comes out in odd ways. He berates people who give him shelter on a cold winter night, he drags around and ultimately abandons a cat in a Chicago bound car, and he swears in front of his nephew while in a fight with his sister. He hurts everyone around him because that is the only way he can cope with such a monumental loss. He sees no way out of this dreary existence. At one point he goes on a prolonged journey to get out of the business, only to muck that up as well. The problem isn’t that he hates folk music. It is that it reminds him too much of his friend so it can no longer give him the peace he seeks.
I think that this film will more than likely sweep the Oscars and probably a host of other awards ceremonies. But this means nothing to someone who truly cares about movies. Watch this movie not because it is in competition with dozens of other great films from 2013, but because it is a great movie.