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Coen brother’s film has mixed reception

Caroline Madden, ‘Doah Staff Writer
March 19, 2014

'Doah photo courtesy of beliefnet.com

‘Doah photo courtesy of beliefnet.com

Written and directed by the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen (“The Big Lebowski”, “Fargo”) comes “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a melancholy picture of the Greenwich Village folk music scene in 1961.

We follow Llewyn Davis, a struggling singer who seems to have nothing going for him. He has no real home; he just hops from friends couch to couch.

He continuously screws up, whether it’s losing friend’s a cat, possibly getting his friend’s girlfriend pregnant, or getting beat up outside the Gaslight Café, all while trying to scrounge up some kind of music career.  Davis doesn’t want to sell out, but his continued failure leads him to question whether or not he has what it takes.

Oscar Issac gives a strong performance both with his acting and with his music skills. He makes Davis a layered character, someone who’s earnest but darkly cynical, a screw up but a bit of a dweeb as well.

Justin Timberlake uses his good looks and charm to wonderfully play his wholesome supporting character, Jim. Jim is a friend of Davis’ and a folk singer in a duo with Jean, played by Carey Mulligan. Jean may be clean cut on the stage, but off stage she is an angry and jilted young woman, who fires insults and zingers one after the other at Davis.

Adam Driver from HBO’s “Girls” also makes an appearance, lending his voice to the comedic song “Please Mr. Kennedy.”  All of the songs in “Inside Llewyn Davis” are excellent, adding to the narrative and encapsulating the early ‘60s folk scene. A particularly memorable song is “Fare Thee Well” which makes an appearance at the end as a solo by Issac, but also in the beginning as a duet with Marcus Mumford.

The end of the film circles back to the beginning, finding no real conclusion. The film does nothing more than follow the life of a struggling musician, a musician whose career will never come into fruition, never to be the next or future Bob Dylan (who is honored with a nice homage at the end). Some may find “Inside Llewyn Davis” slow and as if nothing really happens, or wondering why we even took this journey on the first place. But it is a journey worth going on as an interesting portrait of the folk scene life. “Inside Llewyn Davis” finely combines darkly cynical humor with tender moments.

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