Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★★½

Coen Brothers— Ranked

"If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song."

I saw this movie the first time: Didn't like it.
I saw it again, one week later: Still didn't like it.
I just watched it again, a year and a half later: I kind of love it.

The definition of a movie that grows on you, Inside Llewyn Davis is the quietest movie the Coen Brothers have ever made but it might be their most affecting.

Masters of dark humor and noir, the Coens have been known to write movies about losers, movies with big, big characters that are truly indelible. This movie sees the duo branch out and go in a decidedly dramatic direction, penning a script that examines how humans deal with their life choices and a realistic picture of how far your dreams can take you before reality gives you a bitter pill to swallow.

I don't know what it is about this movie but I saw myself in the character of Llewyn Davis. I don't know if it's because I've been laid off in my own life and know what it's like to struggle and try and find your calling in your career (I'm still trying to find mine even at 28 going on 29), but it seems like Llewyn's struggle represents the human condition. He's a man who wants to follow his dreams of being a folk singer. He has passion and dedication for his craft. Economically, let's face it, he's not doing so well. Not only have the gigs dried up and record sales have stagnated, but he sees people around him having success that he covets. Life is passing him by while he pursues his dream. At every turn, there's a roadblock. He can see what his life could've been like if he chose a more practical profession, a family he could've had. But this is the choice he's made, for better or worse. Before long, reality begins to set in on Llewyn and he becomes bitter, full of despair. He turns in a heart-wrenching performance of a song he once performed as part of a duo, sort of his swan song bridging one career to the next.

There are so many emotions that befall someone watching Inside Llewyn Davis. I think it's hard to watch this film and not compare your own life to the drama depicted on the screen. There is so much symbolism and subtext to this movie that you can interpret it in any number of ways. The performances are even-keeled and understated. The music flows so smoothly and invokes so much pain, so much longing, so much melancholy but the film never feels all that depressing. It seems realistic and is an honest portrayal of fleeting fame and the lure of celebrity. It also defines the "starving artist" archetype in a fresh way.

I think the reason why this movie didn't hit me when I first saw it is because I went in expecting a typical Co Bros movie. What I got was a movie that sticks out like a sore thumb in their filmography in a good way, a movie that shows they can tell a tender story and keep it centered. Have the Coens ever made a character study? I don't think so, but this movie is as close as they've ever gotten.

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