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on December 22, 2016
This is a masterpiece from master filmmakers. Like most Coen Brothers vehicles, the "context" is more of a pretext for a different text. "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" was not a film based on Homer's Odyssey, except in the most contorted way. Likewise, "Inside Llewyn Davis" is not about Dave Van Ronk, or even the pre-Dylan folk music scene, except as pretext. It is a film about living with grief and the loss of innocence, both as an individual and as a society. On the individual level, Llewyn Davis is dealing with multiple levels of grief - the suicide of his partner and the decline of his father, among others. His feelings and actions can only be understood in terms of these losses. Similarly, the Coen Brothers have set the film in the midst of the last wave of American innocence before the JFK assassination, Vietnam, Watergate and the rest. Like Llewyn Davis, we have had to learn to live with our losses, and find our peace at the end of our journey (another common CB theme). The writing, acting, music, cinematography, and overall direction are outstanding. It's not a "feel-good movie," but then again, these are not "feel good times." Perfection.
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on January 28, 2017
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is singing and playing his folk heart out in The Gaslight Cafe, Greenwich Village, 1961. The music is fabulous, lighting just right, crowd into it. The next moment he's getting battered in an alley. You'll learn the backstory. He's so talented, but burned out and bummed out by a serious loss, the scarcity of gigs, missed opportunities, and bad luck (if that's what it is). His own flagging drive, sour personality, and poor choices contribute. In contrast to his soulful music, his empathy is de minimis. The circularity of all that mix is obvious. It's pretty clear he has a hand in these negative outcomes. He feels some responsibility for Jean (Carey Mulligan), the friend's wife he impregnated and for the tabby cat he caused to escape from one setting where he crashes, but not too much. That couple is perfectly cast: Robin Bartlett as Lillian Gorfein, Ethan Phillips as Mitch. John Goodman is stellar as the bombastic Roland Turner. All the cast is exceptional. The singers/musicians create a knockout score. The cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel) is wonderfully moody and atmospheric ; the transitions are smooth and smart. The writing, directing, and editing are all the fine work of Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. This is a pretty serious sober piece with snippets of humor. There is little of that satirical comic counterbalance present in "A Serious Man," one of my all-time favorite films. But it's a strong, solid film with a potent storyline, and a brilliant, persuasive performance by Oscar Isaac. Recommend.
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on January 20, 2014
(This review is for the theatrical release.)

I've read a lot of commentary about Inside Llewyn Davis failing to deliver a pay-off. Oddly, this was one of the aspects of the film I enjoyed the most. It is devoid of the glamour and artifice of an uplifting underdog story; Llewyn's story begins and ends in the same alley, no redemption found, his only prize the blood on his lips. Throughout the film, there were many moments I found myself wishing Llewyn would just say, or just do, this instead of that, find a way to overcome his weaknesses and flaws. But he always says, or does, exactly as Llewyn would do.

This is what I find so refreshing about the film, the screenplay driving it and the performances delivering it. The characters on-screen act with the same perplexing unpredictability as we all do. They never know just what to say to each other. They talk at each other rather than to each other. They are weak, and often unlikeable, and often uncomfortably vulnerable. Our expectations as an audience, sculpted by decades of formulaic Joseph Campbell-driven story arcs, are of no consequence here.

I think our desire for packages with bows on them stems from our yearning for life to follow suit. But it doesn't, does it? We are all little islands of feeling trying desperately and confusedly to express some sort of identity and to find a voice that will connect us to others.

I think it is essential to the film that we don't know the details of Llewyn's story. His relationship with Jean, his estrangement from his father, the loss of his musical partner; these things are vague hints, and as such, we can't take sides. We can't make Llewyn a hero or a villain. And so we must perceive him only as a man. A man who is somewhat pretentious, who maybe only knows how to express himself through an art form both nostalgic and exploited, a man who is selfish and yet heartbreakingly exposed.

The screenplay, the performances, the cinematography, and the sound direction are all superb. It is an earnest film. It tells a truer story than most.
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on January 12, 2017
I can't say I've always been a fan of the Brothers Coen. I could barely get through a viewing of Fargo. The premise of Barton Fink - the virtuous writer in crass Hollywood - held some promise, but wasn't well consummated. Their recent films - among them The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, and now Inside Llewyn Davis, have turned me around. I now believe that the brothers could entertain any theme, any point in time. As a Dylan fan, their recreation of Greenwich Village early '60s has a special resonance. All of the characters are well cast and superbly written. A special tip of the hat to Oscar Isaac in the lead role, and Carey Mulligan as a fellow folk singer and sometime girlfriend. Everything in the story rings true. Their choice of a subdued color palette helps to reinforce the look back to that era. Congrats to all involved. Truly one to watch over and over, as I have.
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on July 20, 2016
I was expecting real garbage, if you like the Cohen Bros...you will not be disappointed. A lot of their films to the lesser or more ADD minds will say "there movies have no point, 2 hours of my time wasted, etc." But we know better. The silly adventures have some fun moments, its a nice easy watch, it is NOT purely biographical about Dave Van Zonk, just loosely based/inspired by him. All these into account, its a nice blu ray package for the price. I enjoyed it and thought the time flew. As usual Goodman had a small role, and was amazing as an elitist bayou jazz heroin addicted hhipster. Typical down on their luck Cohen brother type of character, I have to say these reviews on Amazon almost made me not purchase this, glad I did otherwise!
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on April 29, 2017
It's gotta be one of their best--the Coen brothers. Such a great film, one of my favorites now in a list I'll never keep track of.

If you love the bros, then this is it right here. Consistent with everything else they've done done, a stand out piece I would say.

If you appreciate the 1960s in a historical, cultural, social, and whatever else aspect, this movie is a goldmine of those things. A period piece that really covers an under-covered time and place in history--specifically, the folk culture of the early '60s.

If you love folk, there is a plethora of some great songs and performances, beautiful stuff.

God, the story is so well crafted and the dialogue so stark and understated and brilliant. I'd like to write a lengthy review, but this is not the place for it. And the camera, the way the Coens guide it and the way they cut, is superb. I know there is no explanation for why their technique is so good here, but I have not the ability to comprehensively verbalize it, especially after just watching it.

I hope you take this advice if you're pondering watching the film. Watch it. I don't remember ever feeling this involved with a film before.

The Coen brothers are great filmmakers, and I hope someday all of their films, not just the obvious/famous ones, but all of them are appreciated to the extent they should be--especially this one.

If you're going to watch it on Amazon Video, go ahead. But I'd also recommend getting a DVD copy if you liked it enough after watching, for the DVD resolution will bring new light to the Coen brother's film, as it will for many good films. Specifically speaking, it will bring new light to the light, meaning the Coen brother's lighting choices made which were fascinating and original in this film--at least I assume it will; I have only seen the Amazon Video version, but I do plan on buying a DVD eventually.

Another thing: this movie is very funny. It is subtle, but if you get the references, many of them related to the time period the movie is set in, you may find yourself cracking up. This movie is a true dark comedy and very Coenesque (what else would it be?).

Warning: this movie is bleak, barren, stark, depressing, cold. But it is, in my opinion, a masterpiece, although it's always best not to be too quick to judge. And there is always light at the end of the tunnel, we can hope.

Hope you watch the movie and enjoy it.
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on April 20, 2015
This is one of those movies that gets under your skin without you really knowing why.
I first watched this a couple months ago and found it endearing and definitely worth watching again.
Since then, it's been on Showtime, showing pretty regularly, and every time I'm surfing the channels, I stop and re watch whatever scene is on. And then keep watching. It's that kind of movie. I still do it with a few others, but this is my current favorite.
I'm not a fan of folk music, but the songs in this are all worth sitting through, and some really shine.
Personally, Dear Mr. Kennedy is a hoot, and a great original tune, written for the movie.
Oscar Isaac is an incredibly gifted actor and a gifted singer and musician to boot. He's totally believable as the titular Llewyn. Faced with constant adversity, he strives to overcome each bump in the road, but never really succeeds. An Everyman, if you will, some setbacks are self-induced , but most are a case a plain old bad luck, with the people surrounding him not realizing how much raw talent the guy actually has.
The soft and muted colors and cinematography are superb, as to be expected with a Coen film. Set in 1961, the film evokes the period beautifully.
An understated and underrated movie, give it a try.
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on September 10, 2016
After reading so many negative reviews, I went ahead and watched this anyway. Haters are gonna hate this film, and if so, I am sure you can find some crappy Michael Bay film somewhere in a monstrous megaplex.

I found this to be one of the finest films put out by the Coen Brothers. It told a story that I feel should speak quite loudly to many today (whether anyone listens remains to be seen), and was beautifully illustrated. Like every movie these guys do, the soundtrack adds a lot of character, as if every note was carefully selected for emphasis on the scenes. Excellent film, excellent acting. This is probably my favorite Coen Brothers movie.
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It surely took me back to The Day. This movie, with its mostly dingy sets and costumes really did recapture the seedy, competitive, mellow, unique, early days of the folk revival where gentle fingerpicked guitar accompaniments nestled around lovely songs, both ancient and newly composed. There was probably some wisdom in underplaying the lead character claimed to be based on well-known singer Dave Van Ronk who I remember as having a more raucous, abrasive persona than appears in this movie. Llewyn Davis is, instead, an ordinary, mostly likeable, forgivably flawed, everysinger, anykid who ever practiced his guitar and his singing seriously enough to develop a halfway competent sound that stood out enough from the ordinary to earn set time on a spotlighted coffeehouse stool, but never developed the originality, star quality, and discipline required to actually function in that cruel, nefarious business that masqueraded as an uneasy amalgam of homey kitchen and antiques mall. That most songs are performed in their entirety throughout the movie is a delight and will result in hefty album sales, though maybe not quite as profitable as the music of "O Brother Where Art Thou" which appeals to a wider audience. Llewyn's rootless, penurious lifestyle so captures the actual situation of many of the young singers who managed to survive just short of starvation and homelessness while they waited (mostly in vain) to Happen in New York and, yes, even in lesser cities. The vulnerability of these young people to exploitation and abuse portrayed in the movie is true to life as is Llewyn's willingness to risk repeated betrayal and frustration in his quest for the featured spot. Once I got over not recognizing Dave Van Roink in Llewyn Davis, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The ending was just delicious, exactly how it felt when the music evolved!!! Inside Llewyn Davis did recapture a remarkable time in our cultural history that many of us remember more fondly than it deserves.
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on June 10, 2014
What an uncompromisingly bleak film. A true and utter downer. Inside Llewyn Davis follows a drifting folk musician who is essentially the epitome of the struggling artist. Perhaps his biggest flaw is his own integrity. The path to success is in reach, but the only way to achieve that success would be to compromise his artistic vision, and because he refuses to do so, he is lower than dirt. Oscar Isaac as the title character is spellbinding. Not only is he a fine actor but he is a serious musical talent, playing the guitar and crooning better than just about any folk singer ever. Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, and F. Murray Abraham round out the cast of Llewyn's drearily cyclical existence. The music...oh boy, the music! Most of the film's musical numbers are performed fully live, and they are truly mesmerizing. Songs range from fun and lively to beautiful and heart-wrenching with not a rotten apple in the bunch. Not only does the film have the best soundtrack of the year, but possibly one of the best soundtracks ever. It's that good. The reason Inside Llewyn Davis doesn't have a higher rating is that its focus felt weak and the ending was not entirely satisfying. That said, The Coens obviously intended these things to show the drifting and futile life of a folk singer. Repeat viewings will be necessary for full appreciation, as is the case with pretty much every Coen Brothers film.
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