Inside Llewyn Davis Movie Review
I got a hold of the soundtrack to INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS a few days before I saw the film and given my love for folk music, I couldn’t resist the urge to give the soundtrack a listen. Within minutes, ‘Fare Thee Well’, ‘Five Hundred Miles’ and others were already on my repeat playlist. But as we all know, a fantastic soundtrack doesn’t equate to a good movie, so I entered INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS with cautious optimism. After all, as brilliant as the Coen Brothers are, they can be hit and miss. Thankfully, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS deserves a place among the best films they’ve ever done.
The film isn’t so much about the story as it is about the time period and environment in which the story takes place. On its surface, the story about a struggling musician isn’t always that interesting, but put that musician in Greenwich Village in the 60’s and it becomes infinitely more interesting. We follow the struggles in the week of a life of one such musician, Llewyn Davis, as he aimlessly tries to follow his dream of becoming a professional musician. During the course of a week, he faces several obstacles, such as an overly sensitive performer, a missing cat, a trip to Chicago and a pregnant girl, all of which mix up to provide plenty of humor and sorrow that constantly leaves the audience wanting more.
His situation is pretty simple, but it’s the little things that make the film so great. The movie immerses the viewer in that period and the audience really feels like they’re there, living the life of a struggling folk singer. When he’s told “there’s no money in folk music” after delivering a beautiful performance, we feel both sorry for Llewyn and amused at the situation. In fact, the reactions from people after all of his performances are priceless, with the highlight being the sadness of his father’s blank stare, followed closely with a humorous line. And if you’re familiar with this period in music history, then you’ll appreciate some of the smaller details like Llewyn finding a box of unsold records at a friend’s house or constantly hearing that folk music is a tough business. There were some laugh out loud scenes and plenty of chuckle moments as you can’t help but be amused at the situations Llewyn finds himself in.
Oscar Isaac is nothing short of brilliant. His singing ability sells all the songs, but his natural charm sold the character that could have easily come off as obnoxious. The audience doesn’t really end up rooting for him to succeed or fail, we just want to follow him wherever he goes. Since he doesn’t know where he’ll be from one hour to the next, the audience doesn’t know either and that adds a sense of excitement to the film that usually doesn’t exist with characters. Obviously, most characters have homes, jobs, cars or plans, unlike Llewyn who has none of those things. The supporting cast was also superb, with the highlight being John Goodman as a snooty jazz musician on the ride to Chicago.
Maybe you have to have an appreciation for folk music or an interest in Greenwich Village in the 60’s to appreciate what the Coen Brothers have accomplished with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. But I’d like to think that even if you didn’t care about this period, you’d still find something to love about the film.