FilmReview

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis Explores the Struggles of Being an Artist

Emily Bateman ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Inside Llewyn Davis is the highly anticipated new film from the Coen brothers, who brought us No Country for Old Men and The Big Lebowski. In recent years, with films such as A Serious Man, they have managed to master a subtle and dark humor to their films, which certainly applies to Inside Llewyn Davis.

The film follows the quintessential artist in all of us, Llewyn Davis, played impeccably by Oscar Isaac, as he tries to survive doing the only thing he knows how: playing folk music. There is not really a structured plot, as Llewyn drifts from one dodgy bar looking for a gig to the next, but the film is so immersive and so full of great music that it works. Llewyn also begrudgingly stumbles upon a cat, which acts as a nice companion for his journey. Without this addition, the film’s pacing could have felt a little slow.

Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis. Photo Credit: Alison Rosa ©2012 Long Strange Trip LLC.
Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis. Photo Credit: Alison Rosa ©2012 Long Strange Trip LLC.

People constantly tell Llewyn that folk music is on its way out, but he refuses to compromise his artistic integrity for a career. As people enter and leave his life, we are haunted by Llewyn’s all-consuming solitude.  However, while this movie does have its sad moments, there are also plenty of comedic moments as well. Some of these scenes feature fellow folk singer and neighbor Jean (Carey Mulligan) and a crotchety old jazz singer (John Goodman), who picks up Llewyn on a trip to Chicago in order to help pay for gas.

The music in the film is well worth the praise. The performances in the film, whether on a stage or featuring Llewyn casually strumming on his guitar, continually took the audience’s breath away. This is the kind of music that sticks with you.

Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis. Photo Credit: Alison Rosa ©2012 Long Strange Trip LLC.
Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis. Photo Credit: Alison Rosa ©2012 Long Strange Trip LLC.

There are moments when Llewyn’s stubbornness can make him unlikeable, but Oscar Isaac brings a vulnerability to him that makes us want to stick with him. There’s a sense of universality in Llewyn’s struggle to make a living while maintaining his artistic integrity that many people can relate to. There are times when we wonder if things will ever go right for Llewyn, and if you are looking for a happy Hollywood ending, look elsewhere. But if you want to see a movie that depicts the lengths to which an artist will go to preserve their identity and live out their true passion, this is for you.   

Overall Grade: A

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