The Coen Brothers remain one of the most creative and ingenious filmmakers currently working, and Inside Llewyn Davis does not prove otherwise. Inside Llewyn Davis is an interesting, well acted, and completely engaging film that tells a rather somber story that remains interesting due to its unique humor and definite quirks.
Inside Llewyn Davis follows the story of a struggling folk musician named Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac. The story is very dark, but there is a fair amount of humor throughout that adds a deeper level to the story and emphasizes the unique style that the Coen Brothers are known for. However, a few times in the film Llewyn’s struggle is a bit too great, with so many obstacles that it becomes slightly over dramatic. This happens only a few times and the audience is invested enough in Llewyn that the story still flows smoothly.
As great as they are as directors, the Coen Brothers are perhaps even stronger writers. Inside Llewyn Davis boasts possibly the year’s best screenplay, as the story is beautifully crafted and told in a unique, but not bizarre, way. The story is so focused on Oscar Isaac’s Llewyn that everything else seems secondary, and the audience feels more than empathetic for Llewyn due to the richness of the world that is created.
While Inside Llewyn Davis is not a musical, the film’s story focuses on the 1960s music scene, so many songs are performed. The decision to have actors not sing on set is truly one of the best decisions that the Coen Brother made. The way each song is directed with little to no camera movements allows each actor’s scene to be as raw and beautiful as possible, but the use of prerecorded tracks allows for the best possible performance of the song. It helps that the individual songs are sharply written and expertly performed by a talented cast.
The acting is fantastic throughout, especially from Oscar Isaac. Isaac is likeable and relatable character, but he is not cliché at all. While Isaac’s character could have easily been the stereotypical “put upon good guy”, his character is three dimensional and carries the film’s weight for the entire runtime. While the supporting characters are not given that much screen time, they are generally well acted. John Goodman is a traditionally goofy Coen Brothers character that brings a lot of humor into the story and plays off of Oscar Isaac very well. Carey Mulligan also has a strong supporting performance that gives the audience another relatable character that doesn’t always have the same views as Llewyn. These performances, as well as other supporting characters such as Garret Hedlund, Max Casella, Justin Timberlake, and many others help enhance the rich world of Inside Llewyn Davis.
Inside Llewyn Davis fits few categories in terms of a traditional film, besides a masterpiece. The story is enthralling and engaging, populated with interesting characters and fantastic writing. The world of the 1960s folk music scene that the Coen Brothers have created is odd, but is so interesting that anyone with no interest in folk music can find it entertaining. Filled with great acting and music, Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the year’s best films and a highlight of the Coen Brothers’ fruitful career. Grade: A