Something bad is bound to happen to you if you happen to be a main character in a Coen Brothers movie. From bumbling criminals (“Raising Arizona”) to people who have bad luck (“A Serious Man), nothing seems to go right for these characters. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Issac), the unlucky protagonist of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” is no different as he tries to find some sort of way to make a living at what he does best: playing folk songs.
Set in 1960s Greenwich Village before Bob Dylan made it a “happening” spot, Llewyn is person with some great talent, but has lackluster people skills. He berates people who try to sing along with his song and he is an unapologetic when he gets his friend Jim’s (Justin Timberlake) girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) knocked up. He even loses his friends’ pet cat after staying a night at their apartment. Willing to do anything to become a non-starving artist, Llewyn travels with a drug-addicted musician (John Goodman) and his chain-smoking, quiet chauffeur (Garrett Hedlund) to Chicago to audition for a club manager (F. Murray Abraham).
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is loosely inspired by the life of folk singer Dave Van Ronk and the Greenwich Village music scene. Nearly plot-less, they are not concerned on having the film focus folk music and the imminent popularity of the genre in the 1960s. The Coens are more concentrated on showing the journey Llewyn embarks on during a week and struggles he has to endure in order to overcome obstacles, even if he fails.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” features some good performances from Mulligan and Goodman, but it is Issac as the frustrated, down-on-his-luck folk singer who delivers one of the best performances of the year. He even does his own singing and guitar playing in the film. Although he is mistreats his friends and take advantage of people who are nice to him, Issac does a fantastic job in also making you feel sorry for Llewyn as it seems that the world is against him and admire him for refusing to give up on pursuing his dreams.
The Coen Brothers reunite with their musical collaborator T-Bone Burnett to compose a great soundtrack that would turn any person who wouldn’t give folk music a chance into an instant fan. Each musical sequence is unique in different ways whether it is Issac’s soulful rendition of “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” or the catchy and popular “Please Mr. Kennedy” sung by Issac, Timberlake and Adam Driver (who steals the scene with his backup vocal on the track).
“Inside Llewyn Davis” may not be an instant Coen Brothers classic like “Fargo” or “No Country for Old Men,” but it is certainly an interesting and unique film that that features a fantastic soundtrack and a career-defining performance from Issac.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” opens tomorrow at AMC Aventura 24, AMC Sunset Place 24, Cinemark Paradise 24, Coral Gables Art Cinema and Regal South Beach Stadium 18. Click here for showtimes.