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Melancholy tunes play in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

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Inside Llewyn Davis

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For the down trotted and melancholy, Inside Llewyn Davis has the Coen Brothers going to dark depths; telling the story of a struggling Folk singer in New York City’s Greenwich Village circa 1961.

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Oscar Isaac plays the title role Llewyn Davis with graceful agony. The film opens up with him performing in the dimly lit Gaslight Café to the song “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me”. Davis travels aimlessly city to city trying to find a steady gig. Davis who was once a duo (his partner committed suicide) is having difficulty selling as a solo act. He finds himself on the couch of close friends and Folk counterparts husband and wife Jim and Jean Berkey (Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, respectively).

Jean is infuriated with Davis and informs him of rather upsetting news. Davis knows it’s obviously impossible to get financial assistance from Jim in this situation, which would be scathing to say the least. Davis also finds shelter by crashing at the Gorfein’s residence, for which when he exits their apartment one morning their orange tabby cat follows.

Finding few opportunities to record music successfully for a living, Davis is fleeting to Chicago for the chance to sit down with Folk music impresario Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham). Davis aided by a tough drifter and beat poet Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund) and despondent jazz musician Roland Turner (John Goodman) is on the road for redemption.

Joel and Ethan Coen are at the top of their craft. The film is full of rich artistic performances, full of nuance. The music is beautifully scored by oft collaborator T-Bone Burnett assisted by Mumford and SonsMarcus Mumford. Though the film is not often inviting to its audience; who follows a selfish and sometimes disgraceful character. We find little to no sympathy for Llewyn and his predicament, which only he has himself to blame. Yet, the film is an enthralling period piece that pays acute attention to its source subject. The struggle to break into the Folk music scene makes Inside Llewyn Davis a bittersweet lament.

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