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The Coen Brothers are master craftsmen when it comes to making films, so expectations were high for Inside Llewyn Davis. Thankfully, it delivers as the picture brings us into a dark whirl of emotion that comes when nothing appears to be going your way, combined with a excellent folk soundtrack backing it up.

The Players:

Plot Synopsis:

Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is a folk singer struggling to make ends meet in the backdrop of 1960s New York City. He wanders through the streets practically penniless as he strives to keep his music career going, despite the multiple obstacles in his way.

The Good:

  • The Cast: Oscar Isaac is a fine actor that hasn’t received enough love from audiences… that is, up until this point. Inside Llewyn Davis will catapult the actor into popularity for his complex role as the titular character who can’t seem to do anything right in his life. He could easily become one-dimensional as his world continues to crash down on him, but Isaac brings an added zeal to him that truly makes you adore and feel bad for him. Most of the cast is having a ball, hamming it up as these intriguing people that surround Davis’ chaotic and comedic life. Carey Mulligan comes in as a voice of reason, stripping down Davis and giving him a harsh but realistic look at the man he’s become, and her sharp-tongue performance really balances great against Isaac as our lead.
  • Behind The Camera: Joel and Ethan Coen are able to paint for a somewhat bleak landscape amongst a time where the country was facing a great deal of change. The two engross us in Llewyn Davis’ point of view, which becomes this seemingly never ending loop of misfortune, making the audience members feel the same sense of dread about hitting a dead end in our own lives. While there are spurts of the patented Coen brothers comedy in this picture, they still rain on us that twinge of pain, the loss of hope, through wide empty spaced shots that give us that uncomfortable feeling for Davis in the pit of our stomachs. And of course I love the soft but noticeable symbolism of the cat that Llewyn Davis ends up taking care of throughout most of the film, representing himself at that point in his life.
  • Music: Since we’re dealing with a character whose life work is devoted to folk music in the 1960s, the soundtrack has to be up-to-par in order to make the movie really work as a whole. We get an interesting taste of the different subgenres of music that were blossoming at that time. The most surprisingly comical song of the bunch is “Please Mr. Kennedy,” performed by Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver. It has a cartoonish vibe that that’s hilarious, and it’s great because it educates those who were unfamiliar about the folk song movement at the time. It’s always nice getting a dose of education in a movie when you least expect it.
  • The Look: It’s rather amusing that the style, the Earth-y colors that were so popular in this era would really contribute to the overall feel of the film. There’s a touch of desaturation as the seemingly soulless winter follows our title character where ever he goes. The production design is rather simplistic but it really keeps you in line with how Llewyn Davis is feeling throughout the movie.

The So-So:

  • The Loop: Perhaps the most confusing part about Inside Llewyn Davis is the overall timeline. We begin with Llewyn Davis at supposedly the worst point in his life, but it becomes even more tragic as the story goes on. After a certain point towards the end you realize that he’s back in the same club that he performed at in the beginning, back at this low moment all over again. Where do we really start? Is Llewyn Davis stuck in this eternal loop of misery because of the choices he made in his life? Or are the Coen Brothers just being clever, using careful editing techniques to throw the audience off when they find themselves back at the beginning. I can understand why the loop is put in place, because we have all been there. It’s that grim moment in our lives where everything is going wrong and we can’t escape it, and it keeps repeating itself because of our poor choices. That doesn’t stop this loop of a beginning/ending from being a little bit confusing for audiences.

The Bad:

  • There’s no really bad complaints to add about this film.

Overall:

Inside Llewyn Davis perfectly captures the eternal struggle that all artists, and just people in general, have taken part of at some point in their lives through a well crafted movie.

Rating: 9/10

Inside Llewyn Davis is in limited theaters now, out in theaters everywhere on December 20th.

Trailer:

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