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REVIEW: Inside Llewyn Davis

REVIEW: Inside Llewyn Davis

Julliard-trained Oscar Isaac (the guy in the cabin in “The Bourne Legacy”)  is astounding  as Llewyn Davis and is totally believable as a sad sack, penniless folksinger trying to make it on the burgeoning New York City  folk music  scene.  Like “O Brother, Where Art Thou” 13 years ago,  the Coen brothers make this all about the music with the great T Bone Burnett supervising (he was also integral to “O Brother Where Art Thou”)   and Mumford and Son’s Marcus Mumford providing the vocals for Davis’ late superior singing partner.  The dedication to the music is frustrating at times, because  full versions of unfamiliar songs are  played.  But that what makes the Coen brothers who they are: uncompromising visionaries.  Like the Coen  brothers, Llewyn Davis is uncomprising too and that, in large  part, is what  holds him down. You want to smack him sometimes over his poor choices and refusal to bend at all. It’s hard to like  Llewyn Davis , but the Coen brothers make you “get” him.

Carey Mulligan (Marcus Mumford’s real-life wife) plays Davis’s sometime-love in the early days of  free love, although she’s married to her singing partner, played by Justin Timberlake. 

Coen brothers perennial favorite John Goodman positively steals every  scene he’s in as a junkie jazz artist Davis meets along  the way. What a treasure Goodman is!!

The Coen brothers  nail it as a period  piece and infuse their bittersweet story with their trademark ironic/sarcastic humor.  Some say this an homage to Dave Van Ronk.  Darkly shot against the  backdrop of a relentless New York City winter, this is a very authentic look at a fleeting , quickly changing time in  music .  It’s a love letter  to the  folk  music  scene of New York City.

 3-and-a-half stars

 

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