Inside Llewyn Davis follows a week in the life of a struggling musician as he attempts to make his mark on the folk scene of Greenwich Village, New York, in 1961. Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) has been hardened by years in the biz, but his couldn’t-care-less attitude and his self-assurance have got him nowhere; he’s broke, homeless, and spends his night’s on his friends’ couches, living from gig to gig. He’s on a self-destructive path, and neither his incompetent agent nor the fact that he has slept with his friend’s wife are helping to slow his downward spiral. But as we go further inside the life of Llewyn Davis, we start to understand that his love of music – or at least his reluctant loyalty to it – means that he will keep on struggling for as long as it takes.
Written and directed by the Academy Award winning Coen Brothers, this movie is a little bit oddball, but a lot entertaining and, in a very strange way, affirming. Oscar Isaac is incredible at bringing Llewyn to life and forging an immediate love-hate relationship between the character and the viewer. Llewyn is a total mess who manages to screw up most of his relationships and opportunities, yet we’re still rooting for him to succeed in the end. This is reflected in the characters of Jim (Justin Timberlake) and his wife Jean (Carey Mulligan), who still let Llewyn crash on the couch even after having an affair with Jean and just generally behaving like an ungrateful jerk. Carey Mulligan pulls off the role of the foul-mouthed and perpetually-angry Jean fabulously and amusingly, considering the character had the potential to be hugely annoying (she is kind of like the R-rated version of Daria). I would only question Justin Timberlake’s casting, merely due to the fact that he has such a modern look that seemed incongruous to the 1960s setting.
The soundtrack to Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the best in a long while and on top of Oscar Isaac’s wonderful acting performance, his singing voice is entrancing and beautifully conveys the soulful sadness of his character. The folk-scene of the 1960s is not something you hear a lot about today, but this movie features some incredible music that will have you whistling tunes for days to come. Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year, and rightfully so; the movie is very pretty with a look that almost verges on black-and-white, emphasising the concrete jungle that is New York City.
You go through a lot of emotions while watching this movie. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes devastating, but all the while enjoyable and, by the end of the film, kind of moving. There is really no beginning or end to Llewyn’s journey, and that’s okay. This is just one week in many, many more weeks to come where he will keep making music, even if it means another night on somebody’s couch.
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