*This review is part of the “Now Streaming” series of reviews. “Inside Llewyn Davis” can be viewed on Showtime*
It’s a Hard Knock Life.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a passion-filled film about the 99%. By 99%, I mean the 99% of artists who will never have any fame, recognition, or even money.
It’s a film about grit, determination, creativity, and survival. There’s also a hell of a lot of great music in it, too.
(It’s also quite slow).
The movie rests on Oscar Isaac’s smooth, Brooklyn-wisecracking shoulders.
The film revolves around Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac, a folk singer in New York city in the 60’s, trying to be successful. His journey takes him across the city and the country; he sleeps on his friends’ couches, on the subway, or anywhere else he can.
He is a decently talented artist whose determination is his strength and his downfall. He has the will to push through adversity, but is too committed to what he wants to accept any good-paying work that deviates from what he wants.
Isaac gives a wonderfully genuine performance, and he is the highlight of the film.
It’s a meandering character study, supported by a strong story.
Inside Llewyn Davis is really a day-in-the-life kind of film. We basically follow Llewyn around for a week and see how he lives; we share in his small successes and failures. It has more of a defined plot than other similar films (check out the review on “Frances Ha”, for example), and it’s story is simple yet compelling.
It’s one of the most real films I’ve seen in a long time. Most people assume the life of an artist to be a glamorous one, but “Inside Llewyn Davis” illustrates the painfully honest truth – you will wander around your city of choice, performing, hardly earning a dime. Competition is stiff, and no one cares about you. Yet, you still do it. You do it because you can’t not do it.
The Coen Brothers hold no punches when it comes to what happens to Llewyn. He doesn’t get his record deal. He is told he is just average. His girlfriend hates him. He is homeless. His dad can’t remember him. He is broke.
The fact that he still pushes through and does what he lives is deeply inspiring.
The Coen Brothers chose to go with a dreary gray-and-green color pallet in the film, which makes it all the more melancholy.
The soundtrack is arguably the best part of the movie.
The film revolves around a pretty tightly night New York City 60’s folk scene, and the soundtrack is made up of excellent folk songs, performed by Oscar Isaac himself, with Justin Timberlake in a few as well.
The music is catchy, melancholy, and beautiful.
You probably won’t have fun watching it. If you’re looking to be entertained, skip it. It’s a slooooow movie, but it’s acting, script, and music more than make up for the snail’s pace. You will be rooting for Llewyn all the way.