“Inside Llewyn Davis” starring Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis, takes us along with Llewyn, an unlikeable folk singer, as he attempts to traverse a rocky and misfortunate trail ahead as he tries to break onto the music scene alongside a few cats he finds on the way. This movie takes a true look at authentic folk music and how it was changing through the 60s, and the difficulties of trying to keep the authenticity of folk music as an artist. Through Llewyn’s exhausting journey to “make it” while attempting to stay authentic to the music and himself we see his heartfelt side and his ugly side, causing us as the audience to see a muddled impression of who Llewyn truly is.
Directed by the Coen brothers, who are two of my favorite directors, I set my expectations high, anticipating a top shelf film that I have come to know and love from the Coen brothers and this was no exception. This movie can be chalked up as another great film in their collections of classics. The Coens take a leap of faith here, taking up a very musically reliant movie and nailing it. Interweaving the great musical performances by Oscar Isaac, Marcus Mumford, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and others, into a tense, dark comedy effortlessly, while adding an extra element that feels necessary in this folk tale. Not to mention that this film is masterfully shot and edited with an almost episodic feel to it. The lighting and coloring of the movie is bleak and dim, which not only makes a beautifully looking movie, it feeds into the plot and feel of the film. Shadows are also meticulously used on characters faces to really symbolize characters’ feelings in any given scene, which is an artful touch throughout the movie. As well as the directing being spot on, the script the Coen brothers wrote was on point and was able to develop characters seamlessly throughout the film.
Oscar Isaac gives a fantastic performance as Llewyn, which is no task to scoff at. Isaac delivers on making his unlikeable character have heart and soul, all while being inconsiderate and standoffish to all who care about him. He is able to convince in some scenes that Llewyn really doesn’t care about other people, regardless of how they feel about him. Pair this with Isaac’s stone cold expressions during interactions and his blunt and selfish requests; he was able to create this unlikeable folk singer on the surface. However, we are able to see the glimmer of good in him specifically with his encounters with cats and Jean (Carey Mulligan), whom are able to evoke his true emotions, making Llewyn feel real and extremely human. We are then lost on whether we as the audience want him to succeed when we see him struggle (which he does, a lot), or to fail due to all of his brash actions and crude comments he makes throughout the entire film. Even at the climax of the film, it is difficult to decide whether we are rooting for him or against him. Carey Mulligan also gives a strong performance, really meshing with Isaac on screen, creating real scenes with the complicated relationship Llewyn and Jean share that further each character. John Goodman and Justin Timberlake also gave strong performances, but at times felt as if these characters were only used as catalysts in progressing the plot, rather than being fully fleshed out characters. However, Goodman had some fantastic scenes with Isaac that gave in to some much needed comedic relief.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” really did impress me as a film, with its fantastic performances, specifically from Oscar Isaac, and the great directing from the Coen brothers; they were able to create a cohesive and complex movie. The film itself was completely dialogue driven without any exposition given to the audience, while still having each conversation and event that unfolds flow perfectly with the movie. This is one of the better Coen brothers’ movies, comparable to that of “Fargo”, and I would suggest anyone who is looking for a music based movie to start here, and then stay for the phenomenal performances and characters.