Logan Thomson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Inside Llewyn Davis is a beautiful little film from Joel and Ethan Coen starring Oscar Isaac as a struggling musician in the 1960s and what he experiences in a mere week of his seemingly stagnant life.
Those familiar with the Coens’ filmography will know they have explored aspects of life that most people simply aren’t comfortable with or are willing to talk about. Life is bleak, existentialist, or just flat out weird in the eyes of these guys.
And no, this film is not as intense as No Country for Old Men, as hilarious as The Big Lebowski, or as plot driven as Fargo, but this is not a bad thing at all. It’s by far one of the most, if not the most melancholic film under their belt. On the surface, it’s a film that has little development or progression in its story, characters, or visual style. After all, the film is just about a guy who faces a lot against him and seemingly doesn’t change or grow due to these obstacles.
However, I wouldn’t be writing this if this were the case, and boy, this is a fantastic film that works on so many different levels. Every performance is amazing, with a pre-Star Wars Isaac more than proving himself capable of being a leading man. The film looks great, with the desaturated color palette offering a visual way of informing the audience on the character’s emotional state.
And that soundtrack? Beyond good.
All of this is in service to the film’s central theme about overcoming any and all adversity. More importantly, it’s about the difficulty of it and what you take away from doing so. Life is really, really hard to have a firm grasp on; so much happens to Llewyn over the course of the film that he simply has no power over, and then there’s so much that he’s done that comes back to bite him in the ass. He’s bitter, sardonic, and even a little depressed because of the hand he’s been dealt with.
That said, he isn’t irredeemable. Perhaps Llewyn’s greatest strength is that he’s incredibly persistent. Yes, he can be selfish, but it comes from a place of desire to be a successful musician, and it’s this drive that gives the story some sort of momentum. And he may not be the nicest guy, but when people are kind to him, he does try to be kind back.
Even though, Llewyn does want to become someone great, he is blind to his problems and won’t change. This is his Achilles’ heel, and something he struggles with throughout the entire film. Whether or not he actually grows by the end of the film, the Coens don’t make it so simple, but it is nonetheless brilliant in how ambiguous they end the movie.
As future music legend Bob Dylan sings on stage in the background of the final scene of the film, we are left to wonder the fate of the titular character and what he’ll do next. Will he strive to do better? If so, will he finally find happiness? Like any good movie, these questions can be applied to our lives, too, and hopefully for the better.
As far as how the cat factors into this…idk, just google theories about it. Here’s to another 100 reviews.
EDIT: lol this was my 99th review, but oh well.