Sunday, March 9, 2014

Video review: "Inside Llewyn Davis"

The biggest question I had about the Coen Brothers’ latest work was not “What?” but “Why?”

Why did they feel compelled to make this movie? Like another fairly recent film of theirs I was cool to, “A Serious Man,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” seems like a movie the co-writer/directors made for themselves rather than for any hypothetical audience. It’s all well and good for artists to primarily please themselves, but that doesn’t mean we need to see it.

Set in New York City in the early 1960s when the folk music scene that produced Bob Dylan was germinating, “Davis” is the story of somebody who never makes it. Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is a sad sack and a lout who sponges off his friends for everything, even a place to sleep. But he’s a genuinely gifted singer – and so is Isaac, who skillfully and wistfully performs all his songs himself.

Llewyn stumbles from here to there, getting in and out of scrapes, including a perilous pregnancy that threatens the marriage of two fellow singers (Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake). Occasionally he lands a gig or an audition, but we sense – and so does he – that Llewyn just isn’t destined for the big time.

The story gets interrupted for a long, strange road trip across the country so Llewyn can play for a club manager who apparently doesn’t even know he’s coming. It’s filled with loopy Coen-esque characters, such as John Goodman as a whiny jazzman, but Llewyn doesn’t have much reason for being there.

You can say the same of the movie about him.

Extras are quite scant, and are the same for Blu-ray and DVD editions. You only get “Inside ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’” a making-of documentary. It does feature the notoriously publicity-averse filmmakers plus all the major cast members. It just would’ve been nice to see some deleted scenes and perhaps a commentary track.



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