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Review: 'Inside Llewyn Davis' embodies everything about Coen style filmmaking

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Inside Llewyn Davis


Two months.

It's been nearly exactly two months since I saw "Inside Llewyn Davis" for the first time at the Austin Film Festival. With this weekend marking the film's wide release, including the city of Austin, I feel it's time to finally put pen-to-paper so to speak.

The only problem is, Joel and Ethan Coen have made a film in "Inside Llewyn Davis" that is best described as the epitome of "Coenesque." A film so striking and complex it takes two months (or more) to get your head around it properly.

Simply put, this film is another glorious achievement for the Coens on a long list of cinematic masterpieces.

Yes, masterpiece is a very hyperbolic word yet with the Coen brothers it seems to be a common word with all their works. "Inside Llewyn Davis" takes the word to another level though.

A story of a struggling musician living in Greenwich Village in 1961 by the name of Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Issac), this latest effort by the Coen brothers takes the art of music and film in their hands with the proper amount of attention and care both mediums deserve.

Davis lives through his music. So much so in fact every other aspect of his life is in the toilet. He has no place to live, makes little to no money and continues to rely on the ever more hostile Jean (Carey Mulligan) and her lover Jim (Justin Timberlake).

A cyclical tale of disaster and misfortune for Mr. Davis, "Inside Llewyn Davis" breathes with such potent authenticity that you feel as if you are watching a bio-pic of an existing musician rather than a narrative film about the embodiment of the down and out artist.

Issac's impressive performance ability helps sell the film as a believable examination of the early 1960's singer-songwriters. A voice that could stand up to the tests of history and the musicians of today was necessary and Issac delivers exactly that with a strong acting performance away from his music to top it all off.

The music Issac and the rest of the cast (including Timberlake, Mulligan and Tony Award nominee Stark Sands) performs is a mix of classic tunes with a few brilliant originals like the goofy "Please Mr. Kennedy." Most of Issac's song catalog as Davis are songs from late singer-songwriter Dave Van Ronk.

While not a biopic of Van Ronk's life, Oscar Issac and producer T-Bone Burnett have both said the character of Llewyn Davis was inspired by Van Ronk. Even the album Davis promotes in the film of the same title of the film is identical to an album cover of Van Ronk's.

While the end of "Inside Llewyn Davis" may not satisfy or make sense for all who see the film, "Inside Llewyn Davis" succeeds with flying colors in achieving its goal of constructing a cinematic vision of what life was like for independent musicians in the 1960's and what life is like for them still today.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" expanded to Austin on Friday and is now playing at the Violet Crown Cinema and Regal Arbor Cinema 8 @ Great Hills. Tickets and showtimes are available at the links in each theater's name.


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