Judgments at 24 Frames per Second — Review: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’
When you’re walking through your local video rental store (should you be lucky enough to still have one) looking at the DVD cases with Oscar-nominee stickers on them, consider something that true film lovers have been saying for decades: The best movies don’t always win Oscars.
And sometimes the greatest movies of a given year don’t even get nominated.
That is certainly the case this year with “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
The film, the newest from critical darlings Joel and Ethan Coen, shows a week in the miserable life of Llewyn Davis, a folk singer in the Greenwich Village folk music scene of the early 1960s.
But don’t expect the relaxed, happy-go-lucky folk scene that’s been depicted on film before.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” is a cold, melancholy fable that’s centered around a bitter, cynical lead character, who, aside from his talent, has little to no redeeming qualities.
Llewyn Davis, who now plays solo owed to the recent suicide of his former musical partner, is broke, depressed, constantly angry and almost universally disliked.
He’s repeatedly told that he doesn’t have what it takes. His voice is only good when there are other, better singers to support it.
Unlike Woody Guthrie, who was bound for glory, Davis seems bound for failure. And he deserves to fail.
But somehow, we care. We want him to succeed. We want to hear his audiences put the same heart and soul into their applause as Davis does into his music.
The Coens are repeatedly praised for are their characterizations, and rightfully so.
Much like with their other films, every character in “Inside Llewyn Davis” verges on scene-stealing status.
But despite the colorful, sometimes-zany nature of the characters, the realism of the scenes they occupy is never diminished.
Their characters are always real, and, although we may not always love what they do or why they do it, we love that they do.
The film’s cast, script, direction, cinematography and music, obviously, are all the marks of true cinematic masters.
And like all great films, particularly those of the Coen brothers, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is one that warrants repeated viewings.
If Academy members had been forced to watch “Inside Llewyn Davis” more than once before voting, perhaps they would have seen that it’s not a depressed musician movie.
In fact, it’s not a definitive type of movie at all.
It’s more a movie of questions than it is a movie of answers. Questions about identity, success, grief, the past, the present and the future.
Repeat viewings may not answer these questions, but maybe that’s okay.
After all, how often does a movie come along that asks nothing of its audience but to think?
For those of you who want to see what the Academy was missing out on, “Inside Llewyn Davis” hits shelves on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Tuesday.