Regardless of what decade it is there is one constant in the universe and that is it’s a dog eat dog world. On any given night you could be walking down Hollywood Blvd. and see musicians singing for tips or rappers trying to sell you a copy of their music on CD. There are countless musicians out there and often times it’s almost impossible to differentiate one from the other. Those that do are usually the ones who make an impression. Creating music that is ahead of its time or has yet to become popular can be an incredible challenge for any artist. Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest film Inside Llewyn Davis is a slice-of-life comedy/drama that looks at the struggles one such artist faces.
It’s a typical unforgiving New York winter and Llewyn Davis, with guitar in tow, is struggling to make it as a folk musician. His musical talents are unquestionable but his personality certainly leaves much to be desired. He often proves to be self-centered bastard. After the unexpected break up of his singing duo he finds it very hard to stand out as a solo artist. While playing smoky night clubs, crashing at one friend’s apartment after another and in the midst of simply trying to make ends meet Davis has the opportunity to audition for a music mogul in Chicago and hopes this will be the break he’s been working so hard for.
Despite having no real beginning or ending, the Coen’s look at one week in the life of Llewyn Davis is a very entertaining experience. When we first meet Davis he just performed a sparsely attended gig and has an unfortunate encounter with an unruly listener. Now what did he do to deserve such a beating? As the film unfolds we find out why. Davis often comes off as being a jerk but when the world seems to be against him can you blame him for being so? Despite his prickly demeanor he has his music and when he plays his soul is set free. Like O Brother Where Art Thou, Inside Llewyn Davis really soars when the music plays. T Bone Burnett has collaborated once again with the Coens and has created yet another memorable piece of work. As sung and played by Oscar Isaac, an accomplished musician in his own right, the haunting and melodic songs are filled with soul.
Besides his musical talents, Isaac also brought his acting chops and comic timing as well. He truly embodies Llewyn Davis and makes him a living and breathing character. Even though he isn’t very likable you are willing to go on this journey to see if he actually comes out on top. It really is a breakout performance. Justin Timberlake gives an entertaining performance as Jim; a fellow friend and musician who is playing with the idea of going mainstream. Carey Mulligan is very good as Jim’s wife and Llewyn’s ex-lover. It goes without saying that their relationship proves to be complex. John Goodman appears as a drug-addicted blues musician that Davis encounters. F. Murray Abraham gives a memorable turn as the music mogul Davis wants to audition for. Not to be forgotten is Ulysses the cat who often steals the show.
Inside Llewyn Davis is another Coen confection that successfully blends drama and comedy. It features numerous fine performances but more importantly excellent music. There is plenty of humor to be found and some laugh out loud moments as well. Despite the
humor it takes a poignant and real look at the struggles an artist must overcome to find the recognition they so desperately desire. Full of unexpected wit and melancholy the film more than lives up to one’s expectations for a Coen film.