REVIEW ROUND-UP: Folks Sure Love the Coen Brothers’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

Oscar's got a cat! Can Oscar get an Oscar?

Oscar’s got a cat! Can Oscar get an Oscar?

Wind the clocks back to the 61st episode of the Film Misery podcast, you’ll hear Alex profess that Inside Llewyn Davis is his most anticipated film of the year. Since it’s set for release in early December, expect his descent into madness to fill up the meantime, especially if these tweets are any indication.

@daveyjenkins: Oh Serious Man, Where Art Thou? Lovely stuff. And hilarious.
@erickohn: Calling it: The cat from INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is this year’s Uggie.
@misterpatches: The cat gets more screen time than Timberlake. Essential.

There’s nobody who writes or directs quite like the Coen Brothers, and that’s something to be thankful for. Their films can often land too far on the comedic end of the spectrum, at least for my tastes, but they’re undeniably consistent. Or at least they were, turning out a film each year since 2007 until 2010’s True Grit, when they took over two years to make and finish their latest film.

Inside Llewyn DavisThat time and effort seems to have shown, since critics are quite taken with the indie folk musical. Scott Foundas of Variety says Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t weighed down by potential period trappings.

As they did with the 1940s Hollywood setting of “Barton Fink,” the Coens have again taken a real time and place and freely made it their own, drawing on actual persons and events for inspiration, but binding themselves only to their own bountiful imaginations. The result is a movie that neatly avoids the problems endemic to most period movies — and biopics in particular — in favor of a playful, evocatively subjective reality. Perhaps most surprising to some viewers will be the pic’s surfeit of something the Coens have sometimes been accused of lacking: deep, heartfelt sincerity.

Eric Kohn of Indiewire is just as charmed, and in fact quite deeply affected, saying this is no small effort from the Coen duo.

Light on plot, heavy on melody and feeling, “Inside Llewyn Davis” takes some inspiration from the career of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, but avoids focusing the trappings of a biopic or making broad pronouncements about the era. Instead, the nomadic Llewyn’s fleeting misadventures, which find him drifting from one couch to the next while struggling to justify his career, contains a delicate, restrained portrait that results in a different kind of movie than anything else the sibling have produced. Littered with catchy tunes composed by T. Bone Burnett, “Llewyn Davis” is the musical opposite of their bluegrass-heavy “O. Brother Where Art Thou,” a hyper-stylized take on American iconography that by comparison seems to take place in an alternate reality. “Llewyn Davis” is closer to a familiar world.

 

Finally, Kevin Jagernauth at The Playlist continues the resounding response to the film, as shaken by its resolve as he is charmed by its mannerisms.

Definitely a bit darker than people might expect, particularly in the latter stages, “Inside Llewyn Davis” celebrates those whose moment at fame will forever be a phantom. Llewyn Davis is endlessly striving, gets knocked down and picks himself up again, brushes off his rumpled clothes and gives it another go. He’ll make mistakes, he’ll fuck up, he’ll be down and out and perhaps even on top if ever so briefly. But when that light goes on, and you can connect even for four minutes on stage, in a club you’ve played hundreds of times, sometimes that’s enough. “Inside Llewyn Davis” isn’t about someone trying to make it big, but someone just trying to make it, and the Coens celebrate the hard road that can inspire great art.

So if Inside Llewyn Davis is even a surprise, it’s a damn pleasant one. I know we’re not even five months into the year, but I’m going to place a bet to anybody who’s willing to take me up (except Alex) and say that this will be Alex’s #1 film of the year. I’d like to think I know him well enough.

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Young & Beautiful (Dir. Francois Ozon) and The Bling Ring (Dir. Sofia Coppola)
The Congress (Dir. Ari Folman)
The Past (Dir. Asghar Farhadi)
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