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'Inside Llewyn Davis' review: Stubborn dedication to his craft

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Inside Llewyn Davis

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Inside Llewyn Davis” honors the artist that doesn’t sell out, that refuses to compromise his art, and that lives solely for making his art. Understandably then, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is doing better with critics than regular audiences. Labeling the title character a jerk and misunderstanding the tragedy of the film, many audiences cannot connect with the Coen brothers’ latest masterpiece.

Set in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, “Inside Llewyn Davis” portrays a week in the life of a struggling folk singer. Bouncing from one friend’s couch to another as he waits for his next gig, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) refuses to quit, ignoring suggestions from friends and family of getting a “real” job, committing to a partner, and compromising his work to attract more audiences. Bombarded by discouragement and criticism, even well-intentioned though unhelpful advice, Llewyn sticks to a mostly solitary life since the death of his singing partner. Throughout the week, Llewyn’s sacrifices and struggles show just how stubbornly committed he is to his art.

One of the most serious films from Joel and Ethan Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis” has repeatedly been described as melancholic. Its overwhelming hopelessness set on dreary, cold days makes “Inside Llewyn Davis” feel long, longer than the two hours of screen time and longer than the week depicted. Facing real loss and putting it behind him is impossible for Llewyn, but he also confronts his dream and the reality of his situation; success is a rarity even as he shares his soul on stage because art doesn’t sell. Songs are his purpose in life, but no one recognizes it, except maybe his dead partner.

Humorous scenes of a sidekick cat help balance the melancholy and cynicism of Llewyn. He is not the jerk everyone believes he is; the audience can recognize his humanity in the concern for the cats of the film and in his beautiful devotion to his work. Oscar Isaac has made quite a name for himself with this terrific portrayal.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” has been winning a variety of minor awards (for Isaac, the Coens, the film, and the cinematographer), was nominated for three Golden Globes, and is likely to receive a few Oscar nominations. It may not be one of the favorites of the year, but the music and performances craft a captivating time. This is the Coens’ tribute to folk musicians and artists, even if it has a somber tone.

Rating for “Inside Llewyn Davis:” A

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” is playing at a few theatres in Columbus, including Drexel and AMC Lennox and Easton. For showtimes, click here.

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