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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 November 13, 2017
Joel and Ethan Coen generally produce great films, especially if the viewer is not expecting a Big Lebowski type of mystery or a Raising Arizona comedy. They are in general producers of darker cinema and as such the early days of the American Beat Generation are good topic matter for them to explore in great depth, which they do in this film, Inside Llewyn Davis. Llewyn Davis is our protagonist hero, and we follow him and his music across the American landscape of the seemingly culturless and soulless early 1950's. The film consists of long car rides, from New York City, upstate New York, New Orleans, Vermont, and dive bars where Llewyn Davis meets and clashes egos with Bob Dylan. He has various bohemian lovers: Carrey Mulligan amongst others. A dark take on life for the beatnik who freezes and starves while trying to be recorded in the music industry.
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on September 2, 2016
This very well-cast movie with excellent performances by all could be considered a glimpse into the life of struggling musicians everywhere.
I appreciated the film's timeless depiction of the trying-to-make-it musician's precariousness, unpredictability, and randomly bizarre circumstances of his day-to-day existence in Greenwich Village over the course of a week. It illustrates the often thankless hard work and determination of a struggling singer-songwriter trying to just survive, let alone "make it” set in the rapidly changing music scene of the early 60's. It conveyed the commitment-phobic character flaws common to many floundering musicians, the familiar dysfunctionality between the musician and his family, and also his lack of business sense all-too common among artists even today. One take-away is that singing for your supper is more often what you “must” do and not just what you “want” to do - depending on what day of the week it is.
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Enthusiast: Star Warson January 23, 2015
What a wonderful story and worth seeing. The supporting cast along with Oscar Isaac are outrageously good. John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and Justin Timberlake to name a few. Set in the Village in NYC in 1961 we follow a folk singer navigating his way to try to get his music out there. Oh, and there is a cat, too. Such a lovely story. I don't think anything exploded! how unusual.
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on September 17, 2016
Great character study of a time and place. I liked the cat the best.
The music holds up. After 50 years and the politicians since Kennedy
on down to the Obama nation, we are finally dead broke, again.
The grim days are here again, and Hillary and Donald are proof.

Folk music is timeless and the music and stories will last forever.
Somewhere out there right now is channeling Woody and Dylan
and digging holes for the late 20th Century Masters of Stupidity.
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on January 19, 2017
Admittedly, this movie was a little slow and meandering. It's really more a character study then a movie with a real plot. Still, I did enjoy it. I liked the music (Oscar Isaac does his own singing in the movie). Justin Timberlake played a singer as well, but he wasn't in the movie very much.

This movie has a depiction of one of the worst road trips ever (from NYC to Chicago in winter) with John Goodman's character being the last person you'd ever want to be on a road trip with.

The character of Llewyn Davis is not always likable, but still you want to see him succeed because he is talented. I enjoyed seeing this glimpse into the life of a struggling musician and a time period from before I was born. For every Paul Simon or Bob Dylan, there were those folk musicians just of the edge of success, struggling to make it. It gives a good idea what it means to live and sacrifice for your art.
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on August 30, 2016
Here we are, thirty plus years after the CB revolutionized what we now call "Indie" movies with possibly the best debut film of all time, "Blood Simple". Since that date independent films have grown by leaps and bounds. Many of the "indie" artists cite the CB as inspiration, and if they don't they are in denial. This movie looks and feels like an "indie" movie, very personal. Much of what CB fans may come to expect is nowhere to be found. However, anti-heroes, references to the Odyssey and great car scenes, should keep purists happy.

When I watch Llewyn Davis, I see a young, hungry musician who is not heard by many, and liked by even fewer. His passion is real, but what can a person do when no one cares about one individual's dream?

I am not a fan of folk music, but I love CB movies. Truthfully, I've always wondered why the CB are as popular as they are (I know the answer: you can't hide talent). But I know that their popularity will ebb and flow and eventually become like Donnie in the wind. Disagree? When was the last time (besides right now) you heard the name George Carlin? Uh huh. There should be an entire state devoted to George Carlin as far as I'm concerned. But I digress. I guess what I'm saying is the CB are my Folk music. Like Llewyn Davis, I will enjoy them and celebrate them well after most others have moved on, so to speak.

Now as a musician, I enjoyed this film much more then I did as a CB fan. I know what it's like to stick to your guns against all common sense. When it seems like the world is completely against you and you're still trying to connect to them. To be constantly surrounded by pathological liars, to be physically assaulted for performing, to lose the people close to you....and still chase after it.

Like Mr. Davis, and the Coen Bros, and any artists who does what they do because they love it. This movie doesn't end, it just puts the needle back at the beginning of the record.
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on September 5, 2016
I adore this movie. I love rambling, road trip, finding-one's-self type of stories. Beautiful music. Great and thorough writing. An awesome, purposefully plotless piece. People complain about the plot, commenting that the film was hard to follow, but this was a conscious choice on the writers' part. It was an instrument for helping the audience experience the confusion and aimlessness of a homeless life; as well as that of a struggling artist. Very believable and genuine dialogue, delivered perfectly by all. Great cast, especially with the combination of Oscar, Carey, Garrett, John, and Adam. Some of my favorite actors and so very talented. Oscar Isaac did an incredible, heart-breaking job. I wish so badly that Garrett Hedlund had a bigger role here. He's phenomenal! And, wow, talk about a wasted opportunity to hear him sing. His voice is heavenly! Even so, still five stars for me!
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on December 20, 2016
Cannot go wrong with a Coen Brothers film, Quirky and interesting and is not all neatly wrapped up with resolution in the end. Great acoustic guitar music and lyrics.
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