Inside Llewyn Davis
Folksy Atmosphere

After taking on the Wild West in their last film, True Grit, the Coen brothers are now tackling the 1960s folk music scene in their new film, Inside Llewyn Davis.  No matter what era or environment they are exploring, the directing duo always seems to nail the atmosphere right on the head and this latest film is definitely no exception.

The title character is the son of a merchant marine who hopes to make his living as a folk musician rather than follow in his father’s footsteps.  Although his music is good as evidenced by the opening scene in which he performs for a mesmerized audience at a small café, his career has not really taken off.  His former partner is gone and Llewyn’s debut solo album hasn’t even earned him enough money to buy a winter coat.  Homeless, he moves from couch to couch in hopes of catching his big break.

Oscar Isaac in the title role of Inside Llewyn DavisAfter sitting in on a commercial gig set up by his friend Jim, Llewyn is offered a ride to Chicago if he can front for some gas money.  He takes the opportunity to meet up with a popular club owner in hopes of landing a steady gig, but as good as his music is, it’s just not what is selling.

Like most of the Coen brothers’ films, the focus is more on the atmosphere and the characters than on the actual story.  Thanks in large part to the terrific cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel, the atmosphere is picture perfect.  From the opening scene in the café to the interior of the car on the way to Chicago, this movie just oozes 1960s folk-music atmosphere.  Of course, also helping it achieve that feel is the music itself.  Produced by T-Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford (of Mumford and Sons), the film’s soundtrack is littered with plenty of songs that, while often depressing, can grab at the audience’s soul.  There is a wonderful comedic number thrown in, too, thanks in large part to the terrific comedic timing of co-star Adam Driver.

The characters are well-portrayed by a talented group of actors.  Chief among them is Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis.  Isaac not only did all his own singing in the movie, but he also did his own guitar work as well.  He’s accompanied by his former Drive co-star Carey Mulligan as his friend’s wife who is not happy that she is now pregnant with what could be Llewyn’s baby.  Mulligan gets to play mad the entire movie and she is very good at it.  Also standing out in small roles is Justin Timberlake as Mulligan’s husband and singing partner, John Goodman who is very good in what basically amounts to a cameo, and the aforementioned Adam Driver.

For those in the audience who want their movies to be character-driven and loaded with atmosphere, Inside Llewyn Davis is definitely their movie.  For those who are perhaps looking for something with a more straightforward and progressive plot, though, may find it to be somewhat lacking.  The movie is more a character snapshot, a life in the week of a struggling young folk singer in 1960s New York, than it is a movie with a forward-moving plot and changing characters.  There are even some plot threads that seem forgotten by the end.

The ending of Inside Llewyn Davis might be especially frustrating as it is very open-ended and asks more questions than it answers.  It is an intriguing ending, though, which could be interpreted in many different ways… which is most likely exactly what its directors intended.

Inside Llewyn Davis is rated R for “language including some sexual references.”  It is the language mostly that puts this movie firmly in the R category, but there is also a scene of drug use.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Inside Llewyn Davis