NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: I am completely smitten. I have long admired Joel Coen and Ethan Coen and what they have offered the realm of cinema. I am in love with “Fargo” still until this day, and they’ve provided solid efforts on nearly every outing since. Their newest endeavor that focuses on the folk scene in 1961 is an absolute dream. Everything from the impeccable Oscar Isaac to the music that enriches the deepest trenches of the soul, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is one of the best pictures of the year, plain and simple. It’s the Coen Brothers finest film since “Fargo.”
Our story begins with a folk singer, Llewyn Davis that has continued to pursue a music career in 1961 despite being penniless and lacking any real stability. Migrating from couch to couch, we get a deep look into a character with a dream that just won’t die. As he fights for his chance to share his voice with the world, following an unexpected loss of his singing partner, Llewyn is hard to love. He makes poor choices and seems to lack any responsibility in his life. It’s a wonderful creation of a character that offers insight into a changing time in our history.
First of all, I can’t get the amazing music out of my head. All the songs used are absolutely brilliant. Oscar Isaac‘s richly matured tone is so soothing and authentic; I’m surprised a music company hasn’t nabbed him up to make a record yet. His opening and closing songs are his, as well as the film’s, pivotal moments that encapsulate the endearing message and theme. “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” and “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” are astonishing records that may not just fall into an Oscar race but a Grammy wouldn’t shock me in the least. It has the same magical effect as “Searching for Sugar Man,” two films that seemed to capture the innocence and culture of a generation that seems lost. In terms of performance, Isaac is incredible. So raw and genuine, it’s one of the year’s finest performances by any actor. He has made himself one of the most exciting actors to watch in the coming years. This will lead him into more challenging and accessible roles. This guy could become one of our finest actors in just five years’ time. This is something that should land him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. It’s very much deserved.
In their respective but short screen times, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, and Carey Mulligan are all infectious and notable. Goodman plays a character similar to his “Harling Mays” from Robert Zemeckis’ “Flight” and makes the most out of his appearance. Mulligan is volatile and I loved every second of her. She brings lots of dark humor and fire to a role that shows the depth of her abilities as an actress who can perform impeccably in any genre. We even get her singing again which had me melt two years ago during her “New York, New York” in Steve McQueen’s “Shame.” Hedlund comes and goes but makes his mark as he often does.
Justin Timberlake has made a seamless transition from musician to actor and back to musician. Great in roles like “The Social Network” where his star power doesn’t distract from the story at hand, in a Coen Brothers film, where he sings (in a very current pop way), he becomes a bit distracting. I was very aware that Timberlake, probably this generation’s Michael Jackson, was sharing the screen. More than likely not his fault, it could be a case of being “too big” for your movie.
One thing that the film has taught me…we need to give Adam Driver more movie roles. Timberlake, Isaac, and Driver put their marks on one of the songs “Please Mr. Kennedy,” and make it one of the year’s most fun and remarkable numbers.
Joel and Ethan Coen continue to show their ranges in directing and writing. Flawlessly executed in character understanding and keeping our story moving. Llewyn Davis is such a complex and interesting man and their screenplay gives Isaac room to breathe and explore the subtle nuances that make his character unique and real. As their alter ego Roderick Jaynes, the film moves like a smooth monorail, hitting all its marks and picking up new and exciting quirks along the way.
An almost silver-green canvas evokes the dark and grey tones of the New York scene in 1961. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel masterfully captures the ticks and beats of Isaac as he sings with heartbreaking emotion and walks through the frigid cold streets. Jess Gonchor‘s production design places us all in the folk scene, with intimate bar settings, old-time music studios, and even the classic feel of a Greenwich Village apartment building.
CBS Films has a gem on their hands with “Inside Llewyn Davis.” A sure-fire Oscar contender in several categories including Best Picture. If there’s any justice in the film world, Oscar Isaac would firmly sit near the top of the finest performances of 2013 in Best Actor and nab nearly every award he comes in contact with. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is sensational and an instant classic to be remembered.
The film opens in theaters December 20.