At the time of writing this review, I have seen every Coen brothers movie with the exception of one. The one movie I have not seen is A Serious Man. I believe, at the time it came to theaters, I was living in a place where the movie wasn't playing. Ever since, I have never encountered anyone who was ever all that enthusiastic about the movie. That, and the fact that the movie doesn't have a real gripping hook to make you want to see it, is the reason why I haven't got around to watching it yet. As for the other Coen brothers movies, I have liked all except for one. The one I didn't really like was The Man Who Wasn't There, but even that one I still thought was interesting so it wasn't a total loss. My point is, I will pretty much watch anything that the Coen brothers come out with and chances are pretty good that I will come away liking it.
When the trailers first arrived for Inside Llewyn Davis, I was disappointed. Nothing in the trailers really made me want to see the movie. I am not really into folk music and it was clear to me that this movie focused a lot on that. Still, I figured that it's the Coen brothers and that this movie might be something worthwhile to see. I thought that perhaps one didn't need to really be a fan of folk music to enjoy a movie about the folk music scene of the 1960s. Perhaps the movie would have interesting characters and an interesting story that sheds a light on something I did not know much about. Turns out, I was somewhat right.
Having watched Inside Llewyn Davis, I can say that I am still not a big fan of folk music. I think the guitar work can be pleasant to listen to and sometimes the singing can be too, but most folk songs don't leave a real lasting impression on me. I often don't find any connection with the lyrics and, with certain singers, I find the songs grating to listen to. The songs in Inside Llewyn Davis fit in the category of folk music that is pleasant to listen to. However, I still have not found much connection to the lyrics in these songs. I respect that a lot of folk songs have been around for many generations, but this also means that a lot of the lyrics don't sound like anything that someone would say in this day and age. For example, no one would say "Fare thee well" today, but that is the main lyric in one of the most prominently featured songs in this film. I guess no song can appeal to everyone and I am just one of those people that this music doesn't really appeal to.
Here is the thing though: this movie, while featuring lots of performances of folk music, also has other things to showcase. Inside Llewyn Davis is a small movie. The scenes take place in small apartments, small clubs, and small alleyways. There is no grand plot to the movie. It is a movie about a short span of time (a week) in one man's life. His life is filled with other characters, but not too many other characters, and we do get to know these characters, but not too in depth. Inside Llewyn Davis is more of a glimpse into one man's world than an eyeopening, in depth, study.
The result of all of this is a movie filled with excellent performances in small doses. None of the characters, aside from Llewyn Davis himself, are really delved into enough for any of the performances to really deserve any kind of nomination. The roles are just too small. Still, the actors, especially John Goodman and Carey Mulligan, really make the most of their time on screen. Oscar Isaac does a very good job as the titular character, but he doesn't really have any real big emotional scene in the movie. His performance is more quiet and the character remains a mystery in a lot of ways. However, you can sense a lot of what is on Llewyn's mind without him ever saying it or the movie ever telling you just through Oscar Isaac's performance. He does deserve credit for that. He also sings and plays guitar in the movie, which he does well, even if I'm not a huge fan of the songs he plays.
In the end, I think I would enjoy this movie more if I liked folk music more. I found myself getting sick of hearing some of the songs in this movie that are repeated. I also felt that a lot of emotion in the movie was put into the performances of the music and, as I didn't really connect with the music that much, I felt a lack of emotional power that could have made the movie more memorable to me. Still, I found the characters in this movie interesting and the actors playing them to be excellent. I guess, for me, how I feel about this movie is a lot like how I feel about folk music in general. It is pleasant while it lasts, but does not leave much of an impact on me when it is over.