It’s so funny how things can change quickly with your perception of a film. One minute, I am skeptical about where the direction of this film was going and the next, I’m fully enthralled in the character and the every action that he choose to take. Inside Llewyn Davis opens with scattered events that mix between Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) singing, drinking, and getting beat up. I wasn’t sure what was going on or how I would get hooked, and then “Fare Thee Well” played and I was hooked.
Inside Llewyn Davis follows Llewyn, a struggling solo artist, who is trying to grab a record in the folk music scene of Greenwich Village in 1961. He is knocked down, thrown out, cussed out, but always hangs onto his art and never lets it go. No matter the amount of times Jean (Carey Mulligan) may cuss him out or the little that he makes playing at the local club, Llewyn always progresses to the next day looking for his goal.
It’s what makes Llewyn such a special character, he never gives up and he believes in his gift. Maybe it was just me but I found that profoundly inspiring. While it was hard to watch him tear down walls that could’ve led to something larger, he stuck to his guns and never quit. This is what made this film different from the Coen Brothers films that I have seen previously. This one focused on one guy and lacked the ensemble effort that you would see in something like Fargo or Burn After Reading. It was about one man and his quest of individualism.
Llewyn was deeply independent. I think a scene that best describes this is when he is left on the side of the road after Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund) has been arrested and Roland Turner (John Goodman) is either asleep or dead in the back. He has been carrying around a cat that he perceived to be his friends’ around the city and in turn brought it with him on his journey to Chicago. It is icy outside and Llewyn has all his stuff. The cat has been with him through the entire journey so far but Llewyn has the look in his eyes that he can’t keep holding onto dead weight, so he leaves it.
His fear of being attached to something, whether it be a house or another person/animal, is Llewyn’s biggest flaw. Not that he shuts people out or that he is rude and has his outbursts, but that he is unable to let the people who care about him love him in return. The Coens film it so intimately that we become attached, ironically, to this character and we root for him no matter the circumstance.
The scene that will stand out most to me is the highway scene where Llewyn journeys to Chicago with Johnny Five and Roland. Goodman’s knack for creating a unique, memorable character is on full display as Roland tells obnoxious story after story while Llewyn tries to decipher if this is all a hoax or if this guy is for real. It almost seems surreal and broken from the narrative but works so well and is important because it leads to the scene I mentioned earlier. Roland represents the world hitting Llewyn and he takes it in stride until finally leaving the world behind to do his own thing once again.
Isaac embodies the role and runs away with it. His performance is intoxicating and he becomes Llewyn Davis immediately. Outside of him, Goodman shines in his small role and Mulligan does a great job as the always angry Jean. Adam Driver and Justin Timberlake show up for brief but solid roles. The directing is superb by the Coens and while it may not garner the Oscar nomination, it is some of their best work to date.
Inside Llewyn Davis is about finding yourself in your craft as well as dealing with isolation. It spoke to me and blew me away with just how much I became hooked into the story. The soundtrack also is fantastic with a plethora of great songs to pick up following your viewing.