“Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Issac) is a struggling folk musician, who, after his musical partner dies, attempts to make it as a solo act by playing at clubs around the Greenwich Village area in the 1961. Llewyn doesn’t do too well and has to sleep on the couches of his friends and family. It seems that Llewyn while a talented artist, is his own worst enemy as he continually burns the bridges with the people who love and admire him the most. Llewyn finally realizes that he must deal with the fact that his dream of being a musician may just not be in his reach.
For the audience who didn’t grow up in the time period, the film does a great job of creating the atmosphere and feel of the folk scene in early 1960′s New York. The cinematographer, Bruno Delbonnel, perfectly captures the feel of the city at the time. His use of soft focus and muted lighting makes the city appear in a perpetual grey tint as Llewyn searches continually for his next gig and next couch to sleep on. I love the look of this film. You can instantly tell how affluent each person is just by seeing the hallways to their apartment. The folk singers live in buildings with tiny hallways and doors that seem to be set at impossible angles. When Llewyn visits a couple that helps out struggling artists, their hallway is wide, as is their door.
As with any Coen film, there is a lot of humor in the film, brought mostly through the situations that Llewyn gets himself into, including a number of scenes with a cat that he gets stuck with and has to take on his travels.
Issac gives an outstanding performance of a handsome guy who has a great many demons inside him, making him, at the same time, sympathetic and unlikeable. Llewyn is a difficult person to get along with. He is cantankerous, quick to make snap judgments and seems to care more about the cat that he has mistakenly acquired than the people who make up his life. Llewyn is the type of person that has talent but doesn’t have a real plan for success, so he tends to just wander from gig to gig without any direction.
Supporting characters are always important in Coen brothers films, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Carey Mulligan plays a fellow folk singer whose contempt for Llewyn is shown just by the deadly glances she gives him each time they meet. John Goodman, of course, makes an appearance as an over-the-hill jazz musician, and F. Murray Abraham plays a club owner who can make or break Llewyn’s career. Justin Timberlake plays the almost “anti-Llewyn,” a happy folk singer who writes catchy pop songs, the kind that Llewyn feels are beneath his standards.
The music in this film is outstanding, most of which was recorded on set as the cameras were rolling, including the Justin Timberlake song “Mr. Kennedy,” which makes for an incredibly funny recording session. Issac has a fine singing voice, which brings back memories of very early Bruce Springsteen. He has one of those voices that really make you listen carefully to the song, making every word he sings important. There are a wide variety folk music styles and a great deal of them are on display in this film. Several of the songs are just breathtaking, including “Five Hundred Miles” that Timberlake and Mulligan sing on, and Isaac singing the ballad “The Death Of Queen Jane” is just magical.
The film isn’t as humorous as other Coen films such as “Pulp Fiction” or “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and some film-goers may not like this film due to such an unlikable main character. That being said, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is sure to please the Coen brothers’ fans, and lovers of folk music as it the film gives us an inside view of the music scene that was to shape a generation.
My Rating: Full Price
The film is playing in Atlanta at Lefont Sandy Springs and Landmark Midtown Art Cinema .
Please note that the reviewer is an employee of CBS Broadcasting, Inc and the film is being distributed by CBS Films, which is owned by CBS Broadcasting, Inc.