The closest film to a musical that perhaps the Coen Brother’s will ever release, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is easily their most personal. Depicting a week in the life of a struggling singer-songwriter during 1961’s raise in Folk music, the film is entirely about the struggle of life, ambition and longing for acceptance. Small and personal, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is a commendable production by two of the industries biggest filmmaking talent. Through producing it small, the film is able to hold complete relevance to the lifestyles of many of whom will view this as members of the audience. This relevance allows for somewhat of an enthralment to Llewyn Davis, regardless of his unlikable nature and self centred attitude.
A typical Coen protagonist, Llewyn Davis is neither honourable or uncouth, a middle man whose sole aim – with regard to the film anyway – is the eternal struggle to reach his ambition. Following a week in his footsteps, the film draws in the many relationships that an enthusiastic individual might entail. The disputes and dislikes, come in to play often during the duration of the film, giving over an unsympathetic – yet engrossing – account of the troubled lifestyle of the films title character. It is within this engrossment, that perhaps the directing pair achieve their most success with regard to this filmic production. Unlike their previous releases, the Coen’s have opted against holding a straight-out antagonist within this feature, instead using the situation in just about the same manner.
A film about singing needs to hold songs, and ‘Inside Llewyn Davies’ has some of the most original and fitting vocal pieces that entirely compliment the films narrative. Whether it is to state a struggling moment in the sequence it features, or to account an emotion held by one of the characters, these songs only enhance the film. By not glamourising or overplaying their welcome, the film manages to convey a correct balance of serious drama with lighthearted musical moments. With vocals by Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake to name but a few, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ holds some very symphonic actors, who are able to reach the standard of singing that the film so pleasantly aims towards. Taking no liberties with getting the choice of song right for the moment that it appears, the pair of directors place each vocal in with its surrounding sequence – thus giving the whole process meaning with regard to strengthening the narrative further.
Oscar Isaac as Llewyn is a complete match between actor and character – carrying the film through its whole duration, with an unnerving consistency towards the development that occurs within the role. Well refined by the character study that is implemented into the narrative, the whole idea behind the title character is the unease at establishing the whole reason behind his actions. The film gives small accounts to some of Llewyn’s back story, but never overplays his past – with full emphasis placed on the now.
Alongside Oscar Isaac, the Coen’s have put together a thought provoking ensemble cast that fit into the film perfectly. Carey Mulligan as long time friend and onetime lover, Jean Berkey, portrays a mismatch relationship towards Llewyn that is the main substance to which the film plays out. A catalyst towards Llewyn’s chosen lifestyle, she is the conscience from which his ideology is announced. Uneasy to understand, some of the behaviour attitude her character holds is never fully explained – however, within these moments audiences are asked to give across their own opinions to why the relationship is strained. Going against type for young Hollywood actresses, the fact that Mulligan is willing to concentrate on interesting roles really gives true credential to the young professional. Justin Timberlake as Jim Berkey is another solid fit. Never overused, his presence within the film gives the production a truly musical attribute. Utilising his vocals in two of the films main song sequences, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ uses the popstar-turned-actor to full effect.
Coen regular John Goodman also holds a smaller role within the film. One that is completely befitting the films context. Portraying one of the lifestyles, that success in the music industry can bring, the fact he is present gives over an idea of how the future could befall the struggling Llewyn – outlining a possible path in which the troubled individual could follow.
With regard to the acting on show within this film, each character is placed to hold a bearing within the story-line and each is portrayed in a manner which befits the overall production standard. Oscar Isaac is placed at the forefront of the film and uses this leading man status to true avail, carries the films plot through its course.
One of the most heartwarming additions to the cast of characters, is that of the feline that travels the majority of the film with the striving singer. Serving as a companion – of sorts – to the harshness of Llewyn’s life, the cat is a perfect catalyst to outline the more humane side of the ambitious individual.
‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ does seem in places to be anticlimactic with regard to the characters it introducing – but never closes. Littering the plot with multiple roles that only contain enough substance to fit the moment that they appear, these characters are never concluded in any way. The same can be said for the title character also. Llewyn Davis is an interesting watch, but through the style of the finished article, the film never completely concludes his storyline. On the smaller characters that appear, this issue never fully detracts from the overall plot – with only slight annoyance given to the fact that some characters that feature are very interesting. However, the same can not be said with the unclosing of Llewyn’s narrative. It does befit the purpose of the film, but through not holding a concrete conclusion, the film is never able to give across a ‘happy ever after’. Perhaps that is the purpose of the film. Either way the fact that it is present within the production, will almost definitely split audience opinion.
Using a clever edit style, the film could be seen, come its close, as a continuous loop – further enhancing the fact that Llewyn’s life is a rotation of struggle. With the filmmaking crew working hard to allow for beautiful shot types, classy editing and streamlined narrative-focused script work, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is an entirely focused showpiece of craftsmanship within the industry.
Plot – 3
Acting – 4
Direction – 5
Special Effects – 3
Retrospect – 4
Overall – B