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'Inside Llewyn Davis' is another soulful and whimsical Coen Bros. tale

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Inside Llewyn Davis

Rating:
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Star
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Release date: December 20, 2013

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Written and directed by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carrie Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman

Official website: InsideLlewynDavis.com

Life is a lot like chasing a cat. It doesn't matter how fast you chase after it, you're not going to catch it until it wants you to. Even then it might be not be the right cat, so it's pointless anyway....or something like that.

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a folk singer struggling to get by in 1961. As the harsh winter settles in, Llewyn finds himself at odds with just about everyone in his life as he drifts through the Greenwich Village folk scene. Having lost his singing partner to tragedy, Llewyn is trying to reinvent himself as a solo act, something his manager doesn't seem to think is going to work.

The thing about Llewyn is that he knows that his life is a train wreck. He knows most people can't stand him. He just doesn't care. All he wants to know is where his next pay out is coming from and where he is crashing for the night. Llewyn is faced with many challenges throughout this story, which spans a week of his life. But he never really makes the decisions that would usually make for a coming of age story. For the most part, he seems happy being a ghost in his own life.

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God bless the Coen Brothers magic, which is once again on full display. There isn't a single likable, redeeming quality about any of the main players, especially Llewyn. Yet, its impossible to stop watching. Llewyn, like most of the characters, is kind of a jerk. But they are wonderfully written characters that feel real. As do their decisions, good and bad. There isn't much of a story arc. There are no lessons to be learned. Sure, some of them need to grow up, but it never decides one way or another if any of these characters are better off after the events that unfold here.

Oscar Isaac is a relatively unknown actor. He's popped up in small roles in "Sucker Punch", "The Bourne Legacy", and a handful of other flicks you probably haven't seen, nor would you know him from it. But he is dynamic as the careless folk singing drifter, Llewyn Davis. He's sympathetic, even if he is for the most part, unlikable. But he's actually the voice singing the songs peppered throughout the flick. He won't be forgotten after this performance.

But as good as Isaac and his cast mates are, the real star of this show is the music. T-Bone Burnett arranges a toe-tapping collection of folk songs, most of which are actually performed by the cast including Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Adam Driver. The music is really the life of the movie, the soulful lyrics and beats providing a contrast to the bleak backdrop of early 1960s New York.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" is one of the best movies of the year, thanks to terrific performances from a few fresh faces to the Coen Brothers movie experience.

Rating: Rated R for language including some sexual references

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes

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