Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Running Time: 100 mins
Inside Llewyn Davis is an American film about a struggling folk singer who, after a series of personal crises and embarrassments, finds himself on the road looking for success.
I enjoyed this film. Complete with the Coen Brothers’ typically brilliant dialogue, as well as a strong balance between comedy and drama, and an interesting, layered central character, Inside Llewyn Devis is both an engrossing and entertaining watch throughout, even if some of its more outlandish moments don’t quite have the impact you’d like.
If there’s one thing that really works well about this film, then it’s the comically gloomy atmosphere. The Coen Brothers are experts and blending darkness and humour, and they do another brilliant job with this film, taking the frustration and gloom of our main character’s life, and turning it into a bit of a running joke.
Fortunately, it’s done in a subtle enough manner so as not to cheapen the drama, but I thought that the humour was easily the film’s strongest suit, keeping me far more engaged than if it had just gone for a more orthodox sort of gloom.
What’s more is that the dark appearance of the film works well to poke fun at our main character, taking cues from the stereotypical life of a struggling independent musician, and playing a large role in the way that we perceive him throughout the film.
That’s important because, as a person, he’s not the most likable character you’ll ever come across. Of course, that’s a deliberate choice in the screenplay, and while you’re still able to understand and sympathise with his frustrations, his relentless arrogance and blindness to his real situation make him a frustrating presence throughout, and one that you don’t warm to in the way that most films aim to make you do.
Now, given the unique minds of the Coen Brothers, typical story arcs where a character goes from bad to good aren’t all that commonplace, and it’s a similar case here, where our main character’s development doesn’t quite pan out how you’d expect, something that makes for a particularly engrossing watch.
Another plus is the performance from Oscar Isaac. While he has proven himself time and again with charismatic ‘flyboys’, this more nuanced performance that blurs the line between determined and downright rude, is fantastic to watch, and he easily holds the screen from start to finish, further assisted by as ever engaging and inventive dialogue from the Coen Brothers.
In general, all of that makes Inside Llewyn Davis a great watch, but there is still one thing about it that frustrated me. Again, with their endless originality, the Coen Brothers haven’t been known to replicate what you’d normally expect in the real world. That’s great most of the time, but given this film’s somewhat more subdued and intimate atmosphere, I felt that some of the more outlandish elements, particularly many of the arguably cartoonish supporting characters, prove jarring and unwarranted in the middle of the film, really taking away from its best points at times.
Overall, however, this is yet another strong outing from the Coen Brothers. With a great screenplay that features engrossing drama, clever humour and great dialogue throughout, as well as an excellent central performance from Oscar Isaac, it’s an engaging watch from start to finish, even if some of its more outlandish ideas aren’t quite bulletproof, which is why I’m giving Inside Llewyn Davis a 7.7 overall.