Inside Llewyn Davis – Review

inside_llewyn_davis_ver2The Coen Brothers are brilliant filmmakers.  There’s no doubt about that.  And they have a very specific voice.  Sometimes that results in Fargo, sometimes in A Serious Man.  I love the former and will never watch the latter again.  It seems like I heard about Inside Llewyn Davis a few years ago.  The subject matter wasn’t particularly interesting to me, but I never miss a Coen Brothers picture.  Then the trailers did nothing to hook me.  There were a few laughs, but nothing I was looking forward to seeing, though I heard really positive things about the picture.

Inside Llewyn Davis is boring, repetitive and goes nowhere.  It is episodic, so there is no plot to move it forward.  That’s not bad in and of itself.  You can tell a great episodic story if you have compelling characters, but I found none of them worth investing in.

Oscar Isaac is good in the picture and he’s a talented musician.  But his character Llewyn is a loser who goes from couch to couch of friends in a repetitive, self destructive pattern.  The thing is he’s not a charismatic, charming guy.  He’s pretty mean spirited.  So it doesn’t really track that all of these people would still put up with him.  And it’s really hard to care about him or his story.

When Llewyn embarks on a journey to Chicago with John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund, your expectations are set up as to why Llewyn is going.  His destination could take the story in a completely different direction.  But he doesn’t go where you would expect.  Goodman scores some laughs, but his character is pretty obnoxious and annoying.  And Hedlund barely says anything.  In fact, the whole subplot with those characters is literally abandoned and they are never seen again.  And when Llewyn makes a bold decision to change the direction of his life, he’s so irresponsible that he completely screws that up as well.  Okay, so he can’t do anything well except play music, I get it, but that doesn’t make this a compelling story.

The talented Carey Mulligan is mostly wasted here.  She has a few nice dramatic moments with Isaac, but that’s about it.  The rest of the cast does serviceable work considering that there is little for them to do.  There are laughs along the way, but when you’re not engaged with the story or the character, laughs only go so far.  Oh and the thing with the cat goes on way, way, way, way too long.

I enjoyed most of the music in this picture, but even that was repetitive.  Llewyn performs several times, but plays the same couple of songs.  The story suggests that he has more of a body of work, at least two records, so why the repetition there too?

Inside Llewyn Davis is beautifully crafted, as are all of the Coen Brothers’ pictures, but there’s just no story to hang onto.  And if you didn’t get that Llewyn’s life is repetitive, they remind you again at the end with a literal punch in the face.  This was a huge disappointment and I don’t understand why it’s getting acclaim or attention.  This is not worth a trip to the movie theater and I really hope that Joel and Ethan Coen have something much better in store next time.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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Brian McQuery

Brian is a writer/director from Chicago who has made 9 short films and is developing his first feature. He has hosted Q&A events at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles for films including GoodFellas and Aliens. He works as an Assistant Director on independent films. He misses Chicago style deep dish pizza, but otherwise loves living in Los Angeles. Web site:

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One Comment

  1. You did not understand the film at all.