Inside Llewyn Davis 2.0 stars

Inside Llewyn Davis movie poster

The Coen brothers, as successful a pair as any in show business today, consider the fate of a '60s folk duo after one of them jumps off a bridge. (This being the Coen brothers, it is of course the wrong bridge: the George Washington instead of the Brooklyn). Surprise, surprise: the surviving half doesn't regenerate into a stunning solo success. Instead, it — or rather he, the titular Llewyn (a long-suffering Oscar Isaac) — limps along, leaving some artistic integrity here, some biological material there, some hopes and dreams in the other place. Not everybody gets to be Dylan. Not everybody even gets paid. New York City looks grayly fantastic, and the '60s folk music scene is well and truly (and thoroughly) evoked. But if you're looking for your vicarious suffering to have meaning — well, maybe listen to some folk songs. With Carey Mulligan, F. Murray Abraham, and a scene-munching John Goodman. 2013.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

Comments

Dragonfly Jan. 2, 2014 @ 11:43 a.m.

Don't let Matthew Lickona's dismissive review get between you and the best film of 2013. Here we're in familiar Coen territory, reminiscent of Barton Fink for its exploration of artistic integrity, O Brother, Where Art Thou? for its exploration of folk music and A Serious Man for its exploration of misfortune, but this film is as different from those three as they are from each other. The question that nags throughout is why such a skilled artist fails to receive the acclaim he deserves. In other words, why Bob Dylan and not Llewyn Davis? He's talented; he gigs; he auditions; he practices... but the rewards don't come. Is Llewyn's devotion to his art too pure, so much so that a part-time job is unthinkable? We might blame his personal shortcomings, and he certainly is guilty of some unpleasant outbursts, but are his morals any worse than those of countless other hugely successfully artists? There are a couple of pregnancies in his wake, but might these be consequences of love? He leaves an injured animal for dead, and later abandons a pet, but can we say we'd act differently under those circumstances? At some point, the viewer is likely to wonder if Llewyn's failures and others' successes might largely be due to simple luck. While we consider all this, our eyes and ears are witnesses to the cinematic genius of the Coens, which might coincide with our pondering why this film didn't receive the acclaim it deserves, or why it didn't make more Top Ten lists, or merit praise from The Reader.

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