Inside Llewyn Davis is the new movie from everyone’s favourite Hollywood siblings. The Coen brothers. Not the Olsen twins.
This drama follows a week in the life of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a struggling folk musician in early ’60s New York with nothing to his name but his guitar and someone else’s cat. They keep saying he doesn’t even have a coat, but as you can see from the picture above, he does. That’s the closest to a criticism I can muster.
It’s a wonderful film, with the Coen’s unique outlook and offbeat comedy giving the piece a twisted sort of charm. There’s not a single glimpse of hope for the protagonist as the movie unfolds like a series of increasingly unfortunate events, but it somehow never feels bleak. It’s certainly sad, but remains engaging thanks to the funny screenplay and strong performances.
Isaac is perfect in the lead role. He looks just right, carries himself with a forlorn sense of hopelessness and sings and plays the guitar with real talent. Although his name is Oscar he’s been criminally overlooked by the Academy, presumably because he doesn’t make a speech at any point during the film. Carey Mulligan is brilliant as ever as his sardonic ex-lover, John Goodman dominates his brief screen time as only he can and Justin Timberlake is Justin Timberlake.
It’s impressive that the music is performed live by the talented actors, but it does sound bland and twee. But that’s really the whole point, and the film is anything but. It’s spiky and unconventional, with surprising dialogue that ranges from the gently witty to the downright venomous. The cinematography has thankfully earned Bruno Delbonnel an Oscar nod, the washed-out colours and cold lighting blending with the attention to period detail to create an atmosphere that’s much more striking than any of the music. Or any folk music for that matter.
Inside Llewyn Davis is another great film from Joel and Ethan Coen, with a mythic quality typical of their work. Its sense of circularity suggests that this is just one rubbish week in one person’s rubbish life. Overlooked by the Oscars for its downbeat tone and lack of shiny costumes, it deserves attention for its uncompromising worldview and outstanding performances. Not to mention the lovely cat.