I’m trying to determine what the easiest way for the average moviegoer to approach Inside Llewyn Davis would be. Like many Coen brothers movies, it’s not happy, the humor is dry and acerbic, and it has a confounding ending. But then there’s the music; much like O Brother, Where Art Thou? (a movie that’s less obtuse, but just as unlikely to achieve mainstream success), the mainstream appeal of Llewyn Davis has to be the soundtrack. But unlike O Brother, Llewyn Davis‘s soundtrack doesn’t stand as well on its own; it’s far more poignant when paired with the beautifully lit images of the movie, with its hushed color tones and its liberal use of grey weather. The soundtrack may in fact be the key to enjoying the movie. O Brother was the same way; if not for Alison Krauss and her merry band of folk singers, I can’t stand to watch that movie. But Llewyn Davis would have been a great movie regardless. The Coens have plenty to say about making art, making art into a business, and how artists aren’t always the good people we want them to be, and they chose a great cast and a worthy story with which to say it all. The wonderful music just makes these themes enjoyable rather than merely depressing.
Quicker take: O Llewyn, where art thou?