Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

["Show Me a Hero"- HBO mini-series]

As I kinda promised in my previous entry... here's another Oscar Isaac movie... I planned on seeing this at least another time so I could get something of an entry together.

A Word about the Filmmakers
The Coen brothers are among those stylistic filmmakers and directors. In 2011-2012, when I was getting to know different unique writer/director types, I got to know them as well as Oliver Stone [other than the "Wall Street" movies, I find his work numbing and/or depressing, not my type of movies] and David Fincher [Zodiac was decent, didn't care for Fight Club, loved The Social Network]. And of course Tarantino... loved Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction, but not Reservoir Dogs or Django Unchained...

Ethan & Joel [Coen] bring their own style to the table and you either love it or hate. I didn't care much for their treatment of "True Grit"... but I'd only just seen the original and it was my first John Wayne movie. A lot of people say John Wayne is basically playing himself [or every other character he's played] in "True Grit"... but I'd never seen any of his movies, so I had no idea.

I also need to rewatch "The Big Lebowski" because I bought it for $10 without ever seeing it before... whenever I do, I'll try to get an entry together on that as well. Since it's another love/hate movie.

I oddly enjoyed "Fargo" and "Burn After Reading"... very strange movies, but I liked them. There was a death in "Burn After Reading" that came out so out of left field that I just laughed my ass off... kinda like the kill-shot scene in "Pulp Fiction."

I've found with certain directors that their movies either deal with the same subject matter, they have similarly paced dialogue or the color palettes are consistent.
So I guess you could say that their reliance on dim lighting and blues and grays help cast this movie in a dark depressing image. Although you can tell from the dialogue alone that not everything is sunshine and daisies.

The Story of Llewyn Davis

As far as I can tell from my research, Llewyn Davis wasn't a real person, but bits of him were based on the memoir of another Greenwich Village folk singer, Dave Van Ronk. The only similarities I saw was that he "bummed around" and was involved with the Merchant Marine.

There was a point in the movie where he was giving up on music and wanted to return to the Merchant Marine, but by some mistake, his pilot's license wound up in the trash and he couldn't afford to reapply for it after he'd paid his dues to his union.

Within the first 10-15 minutes of the movie, we gather that Llewyn Davis is a guitar-playing folk singer who sleeps on his friends' coaches and he isn't the most pleasant person in the world.
He was part of a duo who had a couple albums to their name, but after his partner, Mike, killed himself, he's trying to sell himself as a solo act. A venture that doesn't go quite as well as he'd like.

But that's basically what the movie is about. We get to know Llewyn Davis from his music and how he interacts with the people he meets.

The Notables

First things first, there's a lot of music and singing in this movie. A lot of folk music. A couple of Llewyn Davis songs are heard multiple times and they aren't bad. Mainly because Oscar Isaac has a really good voice. Unlike what a couple people tell him, I do find him engaging and pleasant to listen to.
It's when other people sing when my brain kinda switches off and I really could care less. Folk music isn't my thing... like with country music, you either love it or hate it. [Well, that's not entirely true: I enjoy Taylor Swift, Cassadee Pope and Carrie Underwood and a little Martina McBride, but the majority of the genre, I can't particularly care for as much as pop music].

There's one musical number "Please Mr. Kennedy," which is a three-way performance between Llewyn Davis, some dude in a black cowboy hat and Justin Timberlake... yeah, I don't blame Llewyn for wanting to go solo. It's hard to go back to doing harmonies after losing your long-time partner.

I'd read a few people theorize that the cat that Llewyn travels with for some of the movie is a metaphor for how he's carrying Mike's loss with him... I honestly don't know or care if the cat has that kind of significance or not.
What I do gather is that he stays one night at a friend's house, their cat gets out and the door locks behind him before he can bring it back. He keeps it in his apartment, opens the fire escape for some random reason and it escapes. Later he finds it again and brings it back... only it's not the same cat.

"This is not our cat... it's not even male. Where's its scrotum?"
[I'm sorry, I had to laugh at that... it's not as if he did something with it]

And I made a comment to myself about how well behaved it was... apparently it was a nightmare to work with and Oscar Isaac actually hates them and got an infection from a cat bite.
He should have gotten a Golden Globe just for convincing us that he was okay with this one cat :P because I couldn't tell that. But McConaughey was really good in "Dallas Buyers Club" that year...

I didn't bother with a cast list for this movie simply because I only recognize a handful of names and not many performances were particularly memorable.

There is Carey Mulligan (like Scarlet Johansson, she's very talented, but I often don't recognize her right away because she has a different look in everything I've seen her in) who plays his ex-girlfriend Jean.
But really, I remembered her because she was very hostile towards Llewyn. Supposedly she got knocked up and want to get an abortion because of the mere possibility that Llewyn could be the father... she cusses him out and comments that everything he touches turns to shit "like King Midas's idiot brother."  He takes these punches as they come and even says he'll pay for it... then when he goes to pay, he finds that it's free because the last one he paid for never took place.

Yeah, he is kind of unpleasant. It'd make sense why his last girlfriend didn't tell him that she went through with the pregnancy.
Oddly enough, when he hitches a ride to Chicago to see what someone in the record business thought of his record, one of the fellow passengers (who happens to be played by John Goodman... I swear, it feels like this dude's in every movie... I liked it better when he did voiceovers) winds up being even more unpleasant than he is.

Like I said in a previous entry, he's a flawed protagonist in this movie... he's a good person who just wants to forge a career for himself... but isn't the greatest people-person in the world.

I'll also add... even though it's probably glaringly obvious... I probably wouldn't have seen this movie at all or stuck through it if Oscar Isaac wasn't playing the main role. The movie wouldn't be on my radar if not for him.
It does drag in places... a lot of places... but he has an intriguing enough presence on screen that I'm compelled to stay with it for the duration.

Other than the pacing and the folk music (outside of his solo numbers), the other gross negative... the ending is kind of abrupt and nothing is really resolved.
Except that the cat (whose name is Ulysses... go figure) does find its way back to his friends' house.

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