Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★★½

There’s three types of Coen brothers movies.
1. The noir drama.
2. The comedy.
3. Other.

Other includes Barton Fink, A Serious Man, and now, Inside Llewyn Davis. These are about artistic guys struggling, facing both their own failures and the universe stacked against them. They’re both funny and sad, often at the same time. Strange, symbolic things happen to the protagonists in each, but Inside Llewyn Davis is by far the most down to earth. This is maybe the Coen’s most realistic film. It’s also one of their most emotional, as Llewyn is grieving from the death of his singing partner. Llewyn is thus perfectly motivated at every turn, as he’s a huge dick, or as he’s kind. So are the other people we see be kind and be cruel. It’s a microcosm of the world that we rarely see onscreen anymore: a perfectly simple slice of life. There is nothing really wrong with this movie, except it’s maybe one of the Coen’s dullest films.

Llewyn roams around the American northeast, gradually sinking further into the despair that the all grey color palette and frigid weather signifies. He meets a Classic Coen brother cast of supporting characters, who you’ll remember long after the credits roll. And then, the film’s structure revealed at the ending is a stroke of genius. Inside Llewyn Davis is a terribly cheesy name for an album and a film. But we really do see inside Llewyn Davis when he performs onstage at the Gaslight Cafe. Oscar Issac sings with such passion, and as he plays a folk song, Llewyn lets down his sarcastic and bitter wall, showing vulnerability, frustration, and confidence all at once. Rarely has music and performance meant so much to a film. Add that to the classic Coen elements, and you’ve got a great film.

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