Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver and John Goodman
In UK Cinemas January 24th, 2014

by Joanna Orland

Inside Llewyn Davis is a fine piece of cinema with an excellent soundtrack, brilliant performances, and skillful filmmaking. It is not the Coen Brothers’ best film to date, but it is still a wonderful watch and example of an immersive cinematic experience in storytelling.

The story is structured as a biopic, but follows the fictional Llewyn Davis, a folk singer struggling through his life and his career, both of which have fallen flat since the start of his solo career after having moved on from his musical partner Mike. Llewyn is a very talented man, or at least the actor playing him is as the songs he sings are wonderful joys. First point of action from watching this film is to buy the soundtrack.

This is a character study rather than a linear narrative as we follow Llewyn on his incredible journey. The film’s other prominent character, the cat eventually known as Ulysses, also has a parallel adventure that we never fully learn the details of, but this is a nice metaphor nonetheless. There are many subtleties in this film such as Ulysses, and it is a beauty to experience them. The scene stealing and most memorable moment of the film is no doubtedly the small role played by Adam Driver (GIRLS) with his hilarious backing vocals from “Outer Space”. The audience could not contain their laughter. This is the absolute highlight of the film, and a character point for Llewyn as he completely disregards his future and chance for royalties to continue living moment to moment, and unsuccessfully at that.

In spite of this ingenious comedic scene, the film’s main flaw is its use of comedy. When played seriously as in this scene, it works perfectly and helps forward the narrative and Llewyn’s character development. Unfortunately for this film, at times it is played as straight comedy including a particularly fickle performance by the usually brilliant John Goodman. If this change of tone was omitted, this could have been one of the festival’s and the Coen brothers’ finest films. Comedic comedy moments aside, this film is a joy and a brilliant piece of cinema.  The songs and Llewyn’s story have been playing over and over in my head since yesterday’s screening.


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