***1/2 out of ****
Inside Llewyn Davis is a gloomy film from Joel and Ethan Coen about a couch-surfing folk singer, wandering Greenwich Village in the early-sixties. Llewyn is an unpleasant man whose musical talent is going nowhere since the suicide of his singing partner.
While side characters are played by the likes of Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham and John Goodman, Davis is played by the less famous, Oscar Isaac. He is an unusual choice, given the kind of star power the Coens can normally summon. I think it helps this character to have a face for which we have little to no preconceptions, aside from his resemblance to Lenny Bruce, which works with his rude nature.
This film, like many efforts from the Coen brothers, sits comfortably in the middle of rich detail-driven entertainment and the alienating mystery of inside jokes and odd stylistic choices driven by their odd intuition. It’s a very well shot film and is their first, in very long time, to not be shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins. Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie) shoots this film with the coldest color pallet possible.
The music, produced by T-Bone Burnett, is the highlight of the film experience, with very well produced songs reflecting an era that must have seemed like less-explored territory for a new film.
It is a darkly funny, sad, and beautiful film. I also don’t know what it means.