Title: Inside Llewyn Davis
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Lead: Oscar Isaac, Carrie Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
Rating: R for language including some sexual references
A week in the life of a floundering folk artist in New York’s Greenwhich Village.
Over the years, Joel and Ethan Coen have become known for their “what’s the point?” sort of movies. This attribute is most evident in films like Burn After Reading and A Serious Man. Inside Llewyn Davis is very much a window into a period of time in somebody’s life, it doesn’t really have a beginning and it doesn’t have an end. The film simply exists in it’s own bleak, hopeless world. Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is our poor soul who is, by his own words, tired. One thing the audience does not realize from the start of the film is that this week is just one of many that are all to much the same. Llewyn lives a life so much like that of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Weeks blur together in painful struggle, cycles repeat as he fights to make a name for himself in the folk scene. By the end of the film, not only is Llewyn tired, but so are we, and what’s even more troubling is that this film closes with literally the same scene that it opened on, Llewyn wakes up in the same bed and starts a new week the same way the last week started, leading us to believe that this new week is going to be just like the last; troubling, tiring and just plain hard.
The film is beautifully shot by Bruno Delbonnel. There are tons of overexposed whites and dark blacks, everything is very bleak and cold. There is a shot of a cat sitting on a window looking out into the grey of the world, it is one of the best shots I’ve seen in awhile. The music is also one of the best soundtracks in film history, carrying on the tradition of great Coen brother soundtracks that started with O Brother Where Art Thou. T Bone Burnett does an amazing job with assembling some great artists including Marcus Mumford to make a wonderful group of original songs that so seamlessly fit into the era that is recreated in the film. The acting is great, Isaac is fabulous, it’s very evident how tired he actually is, his reactions to the hardships in his life are extremely genuine. Carrie Mulligan is pissed the entire film, which at points almost becomes overbearing and over-dramatic but doesn’t. She walks the fine line very well. John Goodman is amazing as always, he plays a handicapped jazz musician with whom Llewyn hitches a ride with to Chicago. He offers an odd bit of comic relief as a grumpy lunatic.
Overall, the film is quite fantastic if not a little bit depressing. It does a good job of accurately depicting the folk music scene in New York in the sixties, the era seems genuine along with the workings of the music business and the struggle of a musician in an over-flooded genre. The film is most definitely worth seeing. 8 out of 10