Sidenote before I start the review, i'll get back to the top 10 lists a little bit later tonight (I was with family Christmas Eve and Day and so I didn't feel like, nor did I have time for writing. Top 10 of the year will still come New Years Day though). Also, Wolf of Wall Street will be tomorrow, I should be able to get a Mr. Banks review in on Saturday, and a couple of the other Christmas releases throughout the week next week. (No one really thrives on my reviews anyways, so I'm sure the spread entries will be fine. I do the blog more for myself anyways.) Now, onto the actual review.
Inside Llewyn Davis, being a Coen Bros film, was probably my most anticipated film of 2013, and I will say it definitely did not disappoint. There is a distinct blend in the film between comedy and the heavy subject, and it balances out in a way a harmony would, there is some clash, and then resolution. The Coen Bros have done a fine job in the past, and they continued to excellence with Davis.
The most notable thing about the film is definitely the music, it's beautiful, sets the atmosphere, and strikes a deep, rich tone. If this had been any other movie the amount of minutes set just to the music may have gotten tedious, but the Coen Bros pull it off extraordinarily well. Each song plays its purpose in the film, and are sang very well (especially by Oscar Isaac, his voice is killer), and while I'd say there's a lot of standouts, the most definite one is Please Mr. Kennedy. That song got some of the loudest (in a good way) reactions in the film, with the exception of three other specific scenes, and it did a great job at furthering the movie, adding that comedic overtone, and also being able to stand on its own as a song.
When it comes to the direction it should pretty much be expected that the Coen Brothers would deliver, and as expected they do. They are able to steer the film along (which has a story with no clear destination until you get there), absorb you into the world, balance this picture painted, and subtly provide themes that click overtime. Nothing in this film is typical, especially the ending which does not end where you think it should end, it's abrupt, but later when I drove back home the entire point to it clicked and I absolutely loved what they did with it. Joel and Ethan are able to take the character Llewyn, make an artistic statement about his life, while still making an enjoyable experience that is devoid of pretension.
Another driving force in the film was the cinematography which drives the movie and keeps you captivated in it throughout the film. There is a specific section in the movie which reminded me of the car crash sequence in Children of Men, not the same events, but it had the same effect as if it were making you feel as if you were inside the car. The closeups resonate splendidly, and every single shot is its own engaging sequence and stroke on a broad painting.
The performances also drive this movie forward, especially Isaac who is sole force that trudges along, carrying the film on his back. There isn't a co-lead, it is completely Isaac's movie and he stops it from ever getting boring, yet also striking as the bear, almost sad, roots, while the supporting characters add most of the humor to make the harmonic, melancholy quality the film gives off. The standout supporters were definitely John Goodman and Carey Mulligan in their main scenes with Isaac (although the ensemble is fantastic in a dinner scene about mid-way, which was honestly the absolute highlight of the film, it was hilarious, revolting, and saddening all at the same moment), who not only further develop the characters, but also keep the film ripe and fresh, in a sense.
What ultimately makes the story of Llewyn Davis so powerful, is that it is so familiar, and the absurdity is at a minimum. The Coen Brothers continue to show off their great sense of humor, while also making art at the same time. With fantastic vocals, sharp humor, and humbling themes, Inside Llewyn Davis stands tall as one of 2013's best films to offer.
10/10 Sticks of Bamboo