Running Time: 104 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
The arrival of another project from the wonderful Coen Brothers is normally met with mouth-watering anticipation by every discernible film dweeb. What you are guaranteed is a top quality product with memorable scenes, superb performances and eclectic themes. With Inside Llewyn Davis the pair focus their attentions on the folk music scene of the early sixties. Although initial impressions would be of a film similar to O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000), the project has a lot more in tone and pacing to a Serious Man (2009).
The movie opens strongly as Llewyn performs a moving rendition of Hang Me, Oh Hang Me. The performances were all captured live resulting in a superb opening sequence and a welcoming feeling that you are about to witness something very special. After his performance the young musician is met by a tall, shadowy figure in the back alley of the nightclub. The stranger seems to hold a grudge and promptly beats him up. Llewyn shuffles back to the apartment of his late bandmate’s parents with whom the homeless musician has been staying with temporarily. On leaving the building in the morning he promptly locks both himself and their cat outside. The remainder of the film involves Llewyn attempting to return the feline, while losing it, finding it again and following his dream of becoming a successful solo artist after the premature death of his bandmate and friend.
Oscar Isaac is superb as the tragic, narcissistic and fairly unpleasant titular character. His relationship with the lost ‘moggie’ is pivotal to the story and a metaphor as to what has already come to pass. Not only is the cat someone for us to side with, due to the unlikeability of Llewyn, but it appears to be a replacement or image of his musical partner. It also may reflect his pursuit of Llewyn’s musical dream. He seems to be either be chasing the animal, abandoning it or in one car scene, accidently ending its life.
All supporting actors do well in their roles with John Goodman infuriating as a bitter, drug ridden singer with a Foghorn Leghorn drawl, Carey Mulligan solid as always as the pregnant (to Llewyn) wife of a pretentious collaborator (Justin Timberlake). Timberlake features in the movies most memorable and amusing scene as they belt out a zany track, Please Mr Kennedy in the studio with hit record written all over it. Ironically Llewyn chooses to sidestep the likely royalties from radio play over a quick payday. Other highlights are the verbal joists between the singer and his crooked and decrepit agent Mel Novikoff (Jerry Grayson).
Praise should be given for the Coens on trying out something completely new yet blending familiar themes of death and loss within the story. The movie left me feeling a little cold at the end but there is no doubt that the Coen brothers have not lost their touch of producing quality and thoughtful cinema.