Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Now on Amazon Prime: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) - Written and Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen; Starring Oscar Issac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Alex Karpovsky.

By Kenny Howell

There's a moment early on in Inside Llewyn Davis that is probably the first thing I think about when remembering the movie.

The cat has got out of the apartment where Llewyn is staying, and he calls the owners to let them know that he has the cat with him. He has to leave a message with a secretary, and he says "Llewyn has the cat". The secretary repeats back "Llewyn is the cat, got it".

It's such a Coen thing to do to hide the metaphor in a silly throwaway joke, one that could have been easily ascertained, but they just put it out there in the middle of something that is supposed to get a laugh.

When I first saw Inside Llewyn Davis when it came out back in December 2013, I felt the way a lot of people think about Coen brothers movies. It was good, and there were things I love about it, but it didn't blow me away.

Part of the reason was the life it has in the first part with Llewyn bouncing around Greenwich Village from house to house just trying to find a place to rest his head for the night, or to put out some fire that he had set recently with a friend or colleague.

But Llewyn is incredibly self destructive, and it eventually leads him on a road trip to Chicago to meet with a music exec. That trip is horribly depressing, him hitching a ride with a cantankerous, drug-addled jazz musician played by John Goodman and his nearly speechless valet Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund). The trip ends in yet another heartbreak for Llewyn and makes it seem not worth the strain it put on you to watch it.

However, going into the second viewing, I knew that trip was coming. I guess I could prepare myself for the depression that Llewyn goes through, because it went down easier this time. I could see the adventure as a whole, and ended up loving the film more than I did originally, something that happens quite often with Coen brothers films.

Probably the main reason it works so well is Oscar Issac, who had his well-deserved breakout with this role. It's a tough line to walk for Issac because Llewyn can be a huge asshole. A lot of his wounds are self-inflicted. But there is something about him that makes you want to give him a hug and tell him its going to be OK. Something has happened in his past that has set him off on this path, we don't totally know, but he has been just left wandering aimlessly just trying to make it as a folk musician.

Issac also handles the music extremely well, as this is in a way a musical. Nobody breaks into song, but the Coens let nearly all the songs in the film be played in their entirety. They are beautiful renditions of folk classics, and just add another layer to one of the Coens best films.

Inside Llewyn Davis is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Rating: ****

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