Inside Llewyn Davis
- December 6, 2013
- Joel Coen
- Ethan Coen
- Oscar Isaac
- Carey Mulligan
- John Goodman
- Garrett Hedlund
- Justin Timberlake
- F. Murray Abraham
- Ethan Phillips
- Adam Driver
- Robin Barlett
- Jeanine Serralles
Funny and poignant character storytelling by veteran craftsmen.
Never doubt the capabilities of the Joel and Ethan Coen to tell a simple story well. ‘Inside Llweyn Davis’ is a folk-song turned into film. A fable-like tale about a struggling folk-singer in 1961 New York. Great music, profound drama, human comedy, and one hell of a performance by Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis.
We open up to Llweyn Davis performing a show in a New York club. Oscar Isaac nails his musical performance as this passionate, depressed, moody man. Every time he sings it brings up a well of deep emotion and a personal connection to his character through the music he plays. Even the sad songs have elation buried deep that Isaac lets soar.
The Coens have done musical film before with ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ This film puts the music front and center. It is a story of a musician in a musical world. Absolutely superb music.
Watching Davis’ struggles to find a simple place to crash, chasing a run-away cat, “helping” a woman who loves to hate him that may or may not be pregnant with his kid, a sister who resents his whimsical nature and foul mouth, and an impromptu road trip to Chicago to see a man about a record. All told about a week’s worth in Davis’ life.
It’s presented in a traditional Coen style: lots of quirky characters that leap off the screen, genuinely funny and unpredictable dialog, bizarre circumstances, atypical but profound life choices and a protagonist who gives it his all…right before he’s just about to give up.
Carey Mulligan shines as Llewyn’s passionate and embittered girlfrenemy Jean. Justin Timberlake is Jean’s husband/singing partner the straight-laced Jim. John Goodman hams it up as the egomaniacally offensive jazz musician Roland Turner. F. Murray Abraham has a brief appearance as producer/manager legend the all-business Bud Grossman. An all-around perfectly eclectic supporting cast.
A culmination of lots of crazy small moments leading Davis to make some hard decisions. But you never sense that any other week in his life is much different. This is the grind.
I love that we only get a glimpse into his crazy life. Joel and Ethan Coen have made films like this for 30 years and they are very comfortable showing off the simple and wonderful pleasures of life without the need to wow us with profound and grand gestures and big character defining events.
I found a more deeply personal understanding of this man watching him serenade his old and feeble father than through any epic movie moment of clarity. We are defined by the little moments. “Life is what happens while we make plans.”
Exuberant musical production by long-time Coen collaborator T. Bone Burnett, illuminative cinematography from Bruno Delbonnel, strong period detail/designs. All around a near-perfect spectacle that immerses us in this marvelous world.
But Oscar Issac truly makes this film important and memorable. He’s kicked around in film for many years–usually in small but memorable roles. Here he fully dives into this beatnik soul. Giving Davis just enough humanity to let us sympathize with his poor choices and his consistent hard luck. Llwelyn is a joyfully tragic person. Full of faults and an underlying mean spirit born out of a lifetime of failure and disappointments. I felt and rooted for this guy. And what a voice! The Coens recognized Isaac’s musical presence and draw us deep into each of his performances. Awesome.
In the end I loved ‘Inside Llwelyn Davis’ because I felt the characters and the story. An authentic slice of the 1961 Greenwich village folk-music scene as experienced by a tragic and talented singer (and his guitar!). Highly recommended.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
MPAA Rating: R
Length: 104 minutes