I have been anticipating this film since I saw a small snippet of it almost a year ago. As a Dylan fan and having read many books about that period in New York, I knew I'd love this film, and I did. Of course, it was nothing really like I expected, but what Coen Brothers film gives you the expected? This is why I love them so much.
Oscar Isaac is Llewyn Davis (and plays and sings for real in the film!), a down on his luck folk singer in 1961 in Greenwich Village. Hardly anyone around him is supportive of him, including family, friends, and even his agent. Yet he keeps persisting, despite he is obviously tiring of it all. He has no fixed abode, crashing on friends lounges, rotating as they get sick of him. He has gotten himself into endless trouble with women, his family, and his downbeat attitude is not helping him make amends, not that he seems to be trying that hard to succeed anyway. And yet, he is a thoroughly charismatic character on screen, mostly due to the soft side we see come through, and his obvious talent for music.
The film is set over just a week in his life, albeit a very full week. When he says, "I am so tired", you get it, so much happens the action feels like it takes place over months not a week.
The story is based very loosely on the life of folk singer, Dave Van Ronk, a folk singer from that period. The Coens took a lot of information from his life and music for the film, but have said the character of Davis is not really him.
Inside Llewyn Davis has a melancholy feel to it, and it's obvious Llewyn himself is on the edge of depression. Filmed in dull colours, it almost feels like a black and white film. The bittersweet folk tunes add to this, and yet there is a strangely comforting and uplifting vibe to the film.
Much happens during this week on film, playing gigs in clubs, travelling to find leads on being signed up, and disconnecting with those around him. There are a few twists that are unexpected which add even more to these already fascinating storylines.
A lot of the humour is derived from the other acts and characters revolving around the club they play at and the folk scene in general.
The supporting cast for this is outstanding, with Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake playing a homely folk duo, Jean and Jim. Mulligan is sassy and wild as Jean, Timberlake a little more low key. Other characters are very odd as you would expect in a Coen Brothers film. And Adam Driver, Garrett Hedlund, Alex Karpovsky, Stark Sands, F. Murray Abraham, and John Goodman are but some of them.
Of course, Oscar Isaac is superb as Davis, there are scenes where he doesn't have to say a word and you get everything he is feeling. You want him to make it so much, he has charisma in an underhanded kind of way.
And then there is the cat, too complicated to explain, the cat is a welcome addition of colour and humour to the movie.
But really as great as the story is, it would be nothing without the music. Authentic of the time, and representative of the characters, I cannot wait to get my hands on this soundtrack, it's stunning.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a little dark at times, but it has a great undercurrent of humour and has a deep, deep heart. You will leave with a wry smile on your face.