The Gaslight Café is synonymous with the folk movement of the 1960’s and is the perfect setting for this melancholic tale of one mans struggle to realise his potential. Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is a talented musician with a wonderful folk singer style, you could listen to him all day, but he isn’t making the impact he thought he would. He has nowhere to live and he seems to really piss off almost everyone that he comes in contact with. Taking just one week out of his day-to-day misfortunes as he repeatedly screws up, yet still manages to sooth every moment with wonderful music is a journey worth taking, if you’re not Llewyn that is.
There is little if any plot in evidence here but it doesn’t seem to really effect the delivery of what is a snapshot of the continual crappiness of Llewyn Davis’s life. There is enough in one week to show us just how bad things can be for struggling artists in any era, but it doesn’t help that he is a bit of a tit. What he does do with reckless abandon is deliver beautifully crafted folk songs over and over again and even though at times they feel shoe horned in it never gets old.
Isaac is the perfect choice for the role as he manages to deliver the broken Llewyn Davis both musically and personally. That Isaac sings all the songs himself is fantastic, letting you feel both his soul and his apathy in doing something he loves. He is a melancholy man with much to give, but there’s little of him left with which to deliver it. The support cast definitely help to make the picture complete with an on form Carey Mulligan playing Jean a love interest that he shouldn’t have touched and Justin Timberlake as Jim her husband. Timberlake gets his moments in the spotlight when performing but he isn’t allowed dominate said moments, which is a good thing. It should be said that if there is an award for saying “asshole” with conviction, then Mulligan deserves it as she delivers it upon Llewyn repeatedly, like an “asshole” cluster bomb.
What really surprises is how quickly you won’t tire of the music as the Coen’s fill in the gaps with some beautiful songs that so accurately reflect Llewyn Davis in all his sadness. What is also in evidence is the realistic point of view the Coen’s present of life for struggling artists in any era. There are moments of comedy in the mix but it is nonetheless probably the dourest of the Coen’s work to date and if you’re expecting it to be wrapped up in a nice big bow think again. It will leave you hanging in a way that only the Coen’s can.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a journey through one mans sadness as he attempts to realise his musical potential or at least make those around him believe in what he sees himself. Unapologetically true to life and mesmerising in the same breath.