Even though I studied television and film in college, I’m not a big fan of the so-called cult movies. I tend to get very easily distracted, and sometimes those more artsy movies require a level of attention that I don’t possess. I include the Coen Brothers’ movies in this category because it usually takes me a long time to actually get around to watching them, and when I do I find myself not quite understanding the narrative. I was drawn to “Inside Llewyn Davis” mainly because of Oscar Isaac, who everyone and their mothers love, and I found that it was an exception to my other Coen Brothers’ experiences. I figured I’d give you my quick impressions about it in case you are considering watching it.
The movie follows a week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer living in Greenwich Village in 1961. He survives on a couch to couch basis, depending on the kindness of his friends to get a place to sleep, and both his personal life and career are going from bad to worse. The script is built in a way that even though you might think Llewyn deserves his bad luck, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. The entire journey leading him from nowhere to no place at all feels entirely familiar and relatable, and the character is one of those figures who proves that talent requires a little bit of luck to actually amount to something. It isn’t a cheery narrative, but rather a realistic one.
The first thing that caught my attention about this movie, aside from Oscar Isaac’s face, was definitely the setting. The whole work of recreating a wintery New York in the 60s was done flawlessly, and made the movie an immersive experience. I think this actually is one reason why I wasn’t constantly pausing it or getting distracted – everything was so beautifully designed, from the sets to the outfits, that I couldn’t help but be enthralled. The acting was also pretty on point: aside from Isaac, I have to highlight Carey Mulligan’s performance, who I always enjoy. She plays her character in a way that seems trivial on the surface, but is actually very nuanced the more you look at it. Both Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver have good but small cameos, and John Goodman is always interesting to watch.
Finally, I have to talk about the music. At one point, Llewyn says that “if it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song”, and what a great line that is to describe this movie’s soundtrack. It really sucks you into the story and keeps you there for the duration of the film, and I think the performances here are really some of the highlights of the whole thing.
While “Inside Llewyn Davis” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I found it friendlier than my previous experiences with Coen Brothers movies. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend giving it a chance, especially for the beautiful scenery and great soundtrack.
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