Centered on the life of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene, Inside Llewyn Davis is the most recent film from the Coen Brothers. However, it’s not nearly as much of a mainstream film as some of their others.
Inside Llewyn Davis is unsettling, but unsettling in a beautiful way. Davis is far from a typical leading man – one of the things he struggles to try to overcome as a solo artist. He’s not very likable. He’s not very charismatic. He’s not very nice. Davis doesn’t overcome any of these problems by the time the film ends, but the goal isn’t to make him a dynamic character. Inside Llewyn Davis is a story about a guy who keeps getting beat down, and kind of deserves it. His duo partner committed suicide, and Davis struggles to deal with it. He doesn’t have a place to sleep, and has to rely on the kindness of others to survive the winter. He doesn’t have a romantic opposite, except for his friend Jean (Carey Mulligan) he accidentally got pregnant. Davis struggles to overcome a plethora of obstacles, to no avail, while everyone around him gets more successful.
Oscar Isaac is absolutely brilliant, bringing humanity to a lost character. Everyone in the ensemble does a fantastic job, from Justin Timberlake to John Goodman to Adam Driver to Stark Sands to F. Murray Abraham. The performances are sincere and set the tone for the movie.
The soundtrack, filled with classic folk tunes, is a joy to listen to. The one original song, “Please Mr. Kennedy”, a satire on mainstream music at the time, is absolutely hysterical. The cinematography, shot by Bruno Delbonnel rather than Roger Deakins, the Coen Brother’s typical choice (he was busy shooting Skyfall), is shot with a diffused color palette on film, leading to a melancholy feel, fitting the tone perfectly.
Occasionally Inside Llewyn Davis loses its focus, but it always regains its footing quickly. This film certainly isn’t for everybody, but I thought it was brilliant. If it sounds like your type of thing, I’d highly recommend it. 9/10.