Inside Llewyn Davis Review

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis is all about one cat’s musical journey through New York and beyond.

It’s 1963 in New York City, and Llewyn is playing his latest solo material to an appreciative audience at the Gaslight Café.

With his dark, curly locks, perfectly groomed beard, cigarette dangling from his lips and guitar in hand, it’s hard to fathom how Llewyn’s earnest and insightful folk music hasn’t afforded him more success.

Though the simplistic and sing along choruses of his fellow Gaslight troubadour’s might shed some light on that one.

Determined to stick to his artistic principles, this musical cat has had to sacrifice a few things to lead the life that does.

There’s the living day to day part as our guitar hero doesn’t have a regular income, sleeping on friends couches because this is a whole lot cheaper than actually renting and, of course, singing for your supper.

That Llewyn Davis is just a stray cat, following his musical instincts and seeing where they take him.

Which is waking up in unfamiliar surroundings on a regular basis, and this way of life is taking its toll.

Having split from his musical partner in untimely fashion, Llewyn now struggles to get by as a solo act.

And as he journeys from New York’s upper east side to the musical mecca of the city’s Greenwich Village, sharing his own bad luck with everyone he meets along the way for good measure, it’s hard to escape feeling like this particular journey Llewyn’s on isn’t worth the price.

Inside Llewyn Davis is the latest film from the prolific cinematic sibling phenomenon of Ethan and Joel Coen, and it may well be their best film yet.

I’ve seen this three times now and it gets better every time, which is a rare quality to find in film.

Perhaps that’s because the folk music provided by T Bone Burnett and played by the seriously impressive Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis is so god damn good, that by your third helping you’re waiting for that next great song to come along.

But it’s also in the originality and execution of telling fictional folk singer Llewyn Davis’ story, as we watch him struggle to turn his musical talents into a reality while he limps on in life through his charm and the kindness of friends.

That feeling of déjà vu shot through Inside Llewyn Davis is something any creative soul can relate to, but capturing this so completely in the way the Coen brothers have thorough that magnificently idiosyncratic way they have is quite something.

Isaac is the undoubted star of the show as the titular Davis, making you buy into in his music as much as the frustrating journey his character finds himself instinctively locked into.

Hell, if Llewyn Davis was a real person I’ve no doubt Oscar would be a shoe in for winning a similarly monikered statue at a prestigious film award ceremony next month.

But he’s not, so he won’t.


Still, if the Oscar’s is about recognising the best films and actors of the last year, I must have missed that particular memo.

The rest of the ensemble cast assembled here are just as perfect in their less demanding roles, especially John Goodman as a grizzled old jazz musician and an angry Carey Mulligan as married woman who most certainly is not in love with our Davis.

And there’s another, less musical cat who’s along for the ride too, who provides a feline mirror for Llewyn to stare into from time to time.

Inside Llewyn Davis was one of the funniest and most original films I saw last year, and though the year may have changed now, my opinion of this latest Coen film hasn’t.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

January 2014