Inside LLewyn Davis
Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund
The Coen Brothers are excellent story tellers and inventors of characters, whether or not you like the film as a whole. Inside Llewyn Davis would fit into that good but not great category. The most impressive elements here are Oscar Isaac’s magnificent voice and “prickly” character performance and the unusually unique minor characters the Coen’s fill the script with. This is the anti-successful musician story; it's the flip side to Walk the Line. Oscar Isaac explained that the Coen’s wanted to make a movie about the struggle and failure of a musician in the 60’s contrasted with all those in that era who were about to make it big. With T-bone Burnett producing and arranging the music, the longtime Coen collaborator worked with Isaac to perfect an iconic sound that will sustain the mediocre film.
“Troy Nelson is good, he connects with people,” a record manger explains to Llewyn Davis (Issac), who just delivered a head turning song caustically in front of him. Once again rejected because of his inability to connect with people, get on his feet financially and follow through with anything, he returns to New York to crash on friends' couches and struggle from one live gig to another to make ends-meet. Llewyn was part of a successful duo until his better half threw himself off the Washington bridge. Forced to be a solo act, Llewyn walks the cold streets of the city, box of records in hand, trying to get anyone to listen.
Isaac's voice makes you want to buy the soundtrack more than finish the film.
I admire the concept of telling a story without a happy ending about a dreamer (if you can call Llewyn that) that wasn’t one of the singers we celebrate in their success. While a fictional character, Llewyn lives and breathes the cold air in a decade that the Coens and Burnett bring back to life with vintage cars, folk music and frumpy clothes. Oscar Isaac (Drive, Robin Hood) owns every frame with his sour face of desperation as he chases a cat he let out of a friend's apartment, fighting with musicians on stage he feels are below him and trying to stay awake on long snowy drives to auditions. The film opens with the half Guatemalan, Half Cuban-American actor’s stunning voice as he effortlessly strums and sings songs that make you want to buy the soundtrack more than finish the film.
Filmed documentary style, the performing process of the film required Isaac to do each song in one take all the way through, raising the impressiveness of this performance, which is certainly the best work in the 33-year-old’s career. Goodman is a classic Coen character and quite a scene stealer in his limited screen time. Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t a comedy, but it's quite funny in a sarcastic way that the Coen’s have become famous for. Irony is something their scripts always excel at, and this is no different. However, watching your lead character just wallow in misery, no matter how good his voice is, can only be entertaining for so long.
Isaac’s performance and voice are the main attraction.