The Coen Brothers excel at showing that not everyone ends up happy, that there is no fairytale ending, their movie’s sometimes don’t even feel worthwhile because there is no success or gain. Yet their films are, for the most part, all great. Inside Llewyn Davis is no different.
After a three year hiatus, their last film being True Grit, the Coen Brothers move back into their more familiar smart and dark comedy, filled with characters who are all trying to be successful but nothing ever really seems to go their way. Llewyn Davis has this problem; one might even think the universe just doesn’t want him to succeed.
So that’s what we have here in Llewyn Davis as we follow him throughout a week in the Greenwich Village in 1961. Llewyn is a folk singer, who has had varying degrees of success, most famously with a partner who he is no longer singing with, and people mainly remember them as a duo. Hence Llewyn is now a solo-act and it is why he is having problems. Oscar Isaac steps into the shoes of this man and makes him come alive. Isaac, probably most notable for his role in Drive, is fantastic. If this movie doesn’t send him to stardom I don’t know what will. Llewyn is consistently trying to just “get by.” He bounces from friends couches night after night, not having one consistent person to rely on, but he will always have his music. He can sing, and boy what great songs there are, he can be funny, but most importantly he can play someone who is so beat down by life that he wants nothing more than to be someone, not just be a career musician, he wants to be the next best thing. His performance is both heartbreaking and comedic, we laugh at him and pity him, but also find him at times unlikable.
Backing him up is a cast with rather small roles, but thanks to some good marketing, we are led to believe everyone holds more screen-time than they actually do. Justin Timberlake is funny and quirky, a fellow singer, who Llewyn works with on one of the best songs in the movie. But that was the extent of his role, and that isn’t a bad thing because his presence could have felt too much of a deterrent from the main story. Timberlake’s character Jim is dating Jean, played by Carey Mulligan, and she is quite a meaner character than other roles she has had. Her character seems to want to continue to drag Llewyn down in the dirt, and she really succeeds in it. She offers some rather harsh humor and we are also dazzled again by her vocal skills like we were in Shame.
Garret Hedlund plays a man with very few lines who is driving John Goodman’s character to Chicago and Llewyn happens to hitch a ride with them. Again, the previews and such make you think there is more to do with these characters, but the scenes they are in are very funny.
The music can also be considered part of the cast, because it holds such a huge part in the film. The songs are all great, part of them written by Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons. Music is really the only consistent thing in the film, it is always present, and it is always guiding Llewyn.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a return to form for the Coen Brothers, not to say their other works have been good, but this is what they are known for. It is an exceptional film, one that will be regarded as one of their best in the years to come.