Film Review: Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013) ★★★★

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The Coen Brothers are back with a exquisitely sad and dark comedy following a week in the life of a down-on-his-luck folk singer trying to navigate his way through the revival of the Greenwich Folk scene of 1961.

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Based loosely on the biography of musician, Dave Van Rook, Inside Llewyn Davis is the melancholy tale of a failing folk singer who is entirely un-likeable and ultimately, his own worst enemy. Llewyn's actions are questionable and often immoral. He has hardly a dollar to his name and lives solely on couches across town, forced to perform in dive bars and record novelty singles in order to skim his way through life. (This is portrayed in a comical scene with Justin Timberlake reminiscent of Coen classic, O'Brother Where Art Though?). But it wasn't always this way as we soon learn that Llewyn was once part of a successful double act in which he made his mark. Llewyn has grown resentful and bitter having had it torn away from him following the suicide of his partner and the C'est Le Vie attitude of his record label. Yet having grown tired of playing the same old bars, sleeping on the same couches, he is reluctant to push forward and insists on belittling fellow folk artists who succeed him.  
Whilst the Coen's have notiably missed out on Oscar recognition this year, it's debut at last year's Cannes film festival did not go unnoticed. What really stood out for me, is the significance of the cat through out the film. I won't spoil it but for me it is the real substance and essential in the revealing of our protagonist's character. Ultimately, it is period piece in which the directorial duo study America's early-60s Greenwich Village folk scene and is explored in true Coen Brothers fashion. The name itself sparks thoughts of Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas, such names Van Rook would certainly have befriended during the era.

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Featuring the standard yet perfect Coen shots including the slow- zoom, establishing shots and their unique way of creating spaces, every frame appears to be that of a 1960's classic album cover. In true Coen style, this film is shot for shot, visually stunning with no detail spared. It can be said, however, that it is style over substance. Similarly to A Serious Man (2009), it appears the duo opted for ascetic and script over narrative development.  Whilst spectators' eyes are fixed for the entirety of the film, we are not treated to a thrilling plot taking us from A-B but more A-kind of B and then back to A again, roll credits. Instead what we get is a study of a man and an insight in to the world through his eyes; shown decadently in the witty and brilliant ways in which spaces are conveyed as Llewyn and his music stays at ground level whilst others' heads skywards.
The Coen Brothers are undoubtedly one of my favourite film-makers with their flawless shots and fine eye for detail within ever-witty and brilliant narratives. Whilst I enjoyed this film, I felt there was something missing and on reflection I believe it to be an actual storyline. Having said this, it can be argued that it is not about a story or a man doing from unlucky to a hit...we've seen that all before. We all saw Walk the Line (2005), right? What we get instead is a beautifully put together, heartbreaking as it is heart warming and wonderfully acted comic drama. It's hugely talented cast include Oscar Issac, (who I believe missed out slightly this year but is destined for great things), Carey Mulligan's excellent portrayal of foul-mouthed, loveable bitch, Jean, and brief cameos from Justin Timberlake and John Goodman.

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Upon leaving the theatre I did not feel wowed nor did I get the excitement in my stomach that I usually do when I truly love a film. I did, however, have a slight smile on my face through-out which counts for something. The quote by Joel Coen does indeed sum a lot of the film up; the entire mise-en-scene of the film has a calming effect on it's audience and despite much of a strong plot point, it is easy to watch and enjoyable. I liked the bits with the cat in. Inside Llewyn Davis gets a Sophie star rating of 3.5 out of 5.

 "This film doesn't really have a plot. That concerned us at one point; That's why we threw the cat in" - Joel Coen

Until next time, 


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