REVIEW: Inside Llewyn Davis

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Inside Llewyn Davis ends up being quite a confusing film.  You want to love it.  It’s beautifully shot, it’s well directed, well-acted with one of the best soundtracks of the last decade…but nothing really happens.  So how much can you love a film that leaves you so empty at the end of it? That is the question that Inside Llewyn Davis presents you.

The Coen Brothers’ latest venture is set in 1961 and focuses on Llewyn Davis (of course), played by an excellent Oscar Isaac in a breakthrough performance.  Oscar is a struggling folk singer, who used to perform in a duo, but his partner killed himself by jumping off a bridge.  It’s already happened when we meet Llewyn and he seems a little lost.  He crashes at various friends’ places, and when we begin, he’s leaving one’s place, and accidentally lets the cat out.  His struggle to keep track of the cat ends up being the strongest plot thread of the whole movie. Seriously.

inside_llewyn_davisFrom there, we meet Jean (Carey Mulligan), a fellow folk singer, who Llewyn might have impregnated.  She’s not sure who the father is. Her husband, Jim (Justin Timberlake), or Llewyn, and she’s not happy that he’s in the running. Most of her scenes involve swearing at Llewyn and telling him what a loser he is.  From there, our lost hero heads on a roadtrip to Chicago with Roland Turner (John Goodman) and Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund).  He eventually gets there…and then comes back.  So…yeah…

A plot is not this film’s strong suit, but everything else is fantastic.  Can we all just bow down to T Bone Burnett?  He oversaw the film’s soundtrack, and he’s created one that rivals his O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which won the Grammy for Album Of The Year.  The folk music is just beautiful.  Justin Timberlake adapts seamlessly to the style, Oscar Isaac proves to be as good of singer as he is an actor, and we even get to hear Marcus Mumford (and Sons) as well.  You’ll want to hear the soundtrack as soon as you finish the film.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a unique story. It’s just not much of a story. You can’t love a film that keeps it so elementary with its script.

Grade:  B


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