Friday, January 10, 2014

Movie Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers have always populated their worlds with awkward people doing awkward things, five minutes into Inside Llewyn Davis our lead is carrying a tabby cat through the streets of New York. So clearly they haven't lost their knack for the awkward.

The tale of a down on his luck folk singer "living" in 1961 Greenwich Village, Llewyn Davis is a man who doesn't seem awful by choice but by his circumstances. The perennial "guy on the couch" at various apartments throughout the city, Davis just can't seem to keep his mouth shut, which is bad since he only seems to spit venom at everyone trying to help him. There are times you're actively rooting for him to just be quiet so maybe something good will come his way but that's not who Llewyn is and this is a Coen Brothers film.

Film critic West Anthony once described the Coen's Fargo as "bad things happening to people at all times," and that's an apt description for this as well. Llewyn Davis just can't seem to catch a break no matter how much he tries. The sad thing is that he's actually a very talented singer with some good material, and I hate to go back to it but this is a Coen film, so that isn't going to get him anywhere.

The cast that's been assembled here is supremely talented and I was constantly impressed with the performances, every character no matter how small seems fleshed out even if they only get a few minutes of screen time. Oscar Issac is a revelation as the lead, bringing a believable sense of defeat and a fantastic singing voice. Carey Mulligan plays a woman scorned with crisp take-downs aimed at Davis. John Goodman on the other hand plays a cantankerous jazz pianist who always has something to say, very little of it nice, but he brings some great comedic levity to the shit-storm that is Davis's life. Also as usual, Justin Timberlake gives a solid performance as one of Davis's friends with a heart of gold.

Inside Llewyn Davis may not be a perfect representation of the early folk scene in New York but it's definitely the Coen's perfect representation. Solid performances, great music and never ending circle of terrible situations, this is the Coen Brothers doing what they do best.

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