Review: Inside Llewyn Davis
Written by Steven Panzarella (@ProCreateSteve)
The Short- Inside Llewyn Davis is a story about an unlikeable singer looking to keep his career afloat in New York City. Filled with fantastic tunes and fascinating characters as they explore the 1960s folk scene in lower Manhattan, Inside Llewyn Davis sheds a light into the mostly low points of a man trying to make a buck doing what he loves. Inside Llewyn Davis is not a complicated story to tell, but it is one of the most interesting stories we have seen this year. It’s the Coen Brothers at their finest with outstanding performances from Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garret Hedlund, and John Goodman among others.
The Long- The Coen brothers don’t make vast movies with a big story, they make romantically small films about normal men and women who are for the most part totally uninteresting until the spotlight is shined on them (I.E-The dude is just a pot smoking bowler). Llewyn Davis (played perfectly by Oscar Isaac) is one of those guys. Davis is a talented musician and a totally unlikable human; he plays good music but is a total A-Hole off stage. He’s difficult, judgmental, sometimes hurtful and very much down on his luck. Not only is he not a particularly nice guy but he’s lucky to have any friends at all, crashing on couches and insulting his way through his address book. So when we enter Inside Llewyn Davis, we enter the world of Folk Music in 1960s New York City. Davis is broke, crashing on friends couches and borrowing money from friends yet nothing really great is happening to him. His newest albums is not making any money, he is performing songs for a lump sum and not receiving any royalties and he cares about little else than the day to day life of himself.
Joel and Ethan Coen take us into the depths of the 1960s New York folk scene showing us the lives of these young singers and showing us the spaces they inhabited. Like a normal Coen protagonist Llewyn is a guy we are not yet sure we care about the more time we spend with him, his likeability may rise and fall but as a character he becomes much more interesting. He is searching for ways to make money by playing the music he loves without changing the absolute fact that he is one of the biggest jerks we have seen on film this year. Oscar Isaac embodies the role and accepts Llewyn for who he is and then gives us an open look into this character. Isaac plays it perfectly he turns Llewyn into a character we can’t help but care about no matter how much he cares for his loved ones.
Along with being Oscar Isaac’s breakout role it is also the coming out party for Oscar Isaac the musician with help from music legend T. Bone Burnett. By the time the film begins you are more entranced by his Musical skill then his acting chops and he has plenty of both. Besides its characters Inside Llewyn Davis is also an expression of folk music, featuring the music of Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, The Punch Brothers, Bob Dylan, and others. Whether it is Isaac, Timberlake, Carey Mulligan or a brief appearance from Girls star Adam Driver the music is just as beautiful as any moment in the film.
To some Inside Llewyn Davis might seem like a nearly 2 hour indie that nothing really important happens but in the world of Llewyn Davis the audience witnesses a down on his luck singer at his lowest points and how he responds to that. It helps that the main character and the people around him create for plenty of memorable moments. Whether it’s the two gentlemen he catches a ride to Chicago with one being a loudmouth jazz singer (John Goodman) and the other his soft spoken, cigarette smoking valet (Garrett Hedlund). Goodman especially creates one of the more memorable Justin Timberlake doesn’t get as much screen time as we thought he would but the scenes between Isaac and Carey Mulligan who plays a hateful former lover and friend of Llewyn’s who provide plenty of sparks and provide some of the films more heartfelt moments.
Inside Llewyn Davis is as good as any movie that the Coen’s have made (Yes I am counting Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men) it’s not large in stature but has a ton of heart and soul. Oscar Isaac gives an Oscar worthy performance and a movie that is already popular with critics should gain popularity when Oscar nominations are announced later this month.
Final Grade- A+