Writer/Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Producer: Scott Rudin
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Distributor: CBS Films
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, and F. Murray Abraham
Plot: A homeless musician navigates the folk music scene in 1960’s New York.
Review: Inside Llewyn Davis to me is one of those films you watch when you’re in a certain mood, the plot plays almost like a bad dream as Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) moves from point to point, cycling through his friends in Greenwich Village sleeping on couches. He is talented yet unsuccessful, downbeat and cynical. The character of Llewyn Davis makes for an interesting protagonist suitably interesting a very downbeat film. The movie feels much longer than it is but that is a mark of quality in this regard as opposed to other films I’ve seen that drag on. This is not a typical plot but the Coen’s are somehow able to keep the momentum going throughout the film if only to slow down for the musical numbers. They are all quite good, but with the exception of the main theme sung by Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons and Oscar Isaac himself aren’t particularly memorable, quite like the character himself.
Oscar Isaac is well equipped to handle a lead role like this, being part band member and classically trained himself he navigates the character effortlessly taking the audience on a journey with him. There’s nothing too special about Llewyn and he’s not made out to be some hidden genius so kudos for the makers involved for getting us to care about him.
Reuniting with her Drive co-star Carey Mulligan gets the most supporting screen time (next to the cat) opposite Isaac as his estranged lover. There’s a certainty to their relationship that’s delved into just enough to give the film an extra weight to it, without ruining the mystique of the characters. She is quite against type here playing a justifiably angry person, but she gives life to the character of Jean and you believe their chemistry.
Filmed in a soft lens and set in the cold of winter the setting makes the prickly characters memorable without being straight unlikable. They feel very human and are balanced by Davis who himself is a bit of an ass at times. Needless to say the mark of defined characters and a well-remembered setting are demonstrable of good filmmaking, but prickly and intimate is the Coen bros. in their element. There isn’t any breakout cinema here. Good but not particularly memorable suits Llewyn Davis just fine.