Inside Llewyn Davis follows, unsurprisingly, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) through a week of his life as a struggling folk singer in 1961 New York City.
Llewyn has no apparent permanent address and lives an entirely transitory existence, playing folk music when he can get someone to pay him for it and sleeping on couches from Greenwich Village to the Upper West Side. He’s also an asshole, and he knows it. The moral of the movie (or one of many morals you could take) is that sometimes you try and succeed and sometimes you try and fail; sometimes when you try and fail it’s someone else’s fault, or no one’s fault at all, and sometimes when you fail it’s your fault from start to finish. Many of Llewyn’s problems fall into the last of those categories.
Isaac plays Llewyn as an abrasive asshole who knows he’s an asshole and knows he should be ashamed about it, but still isn’t. He is uncompromising, even when compromise would get him better gigs, better pay, and maybe a roof over his head. (You could argue that being that rigid in your own code verges on stupidity rather than just being uncompromising, and you might be right). Fortunately for Llewyn, the people around him are generally much kinder to him than he deserves. The supporting cast is fantastic and full of characters you wish Llewyn were just a bit nicer to so they could stay on screen just a little bit longer. Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, and Coen Brothers’ staple John Goodman are all amazing.
Also, without revealing the details, Inside Llewyn Davis has possibly my favorite ending to any movie this year. The whole movie comes together to form a kind of möbius strip- it forms a circle, but one that’s just slightly off and will never quite lay flat. There’s a tension in the structure that can never fully resolve.
The soundtrack is great. If you haven’t heard “Please Mr. Kennedy” yet, do it. Do it now.
And a brief bit of Oscar Talk…
Oscar Isaac is great as Llewyn Davis, which only muddies an already overcrowded Best Actor race. The man can sing, I can tell you that much. I feel like he’s in a group of about five actors fighting for two spots, but I would be happy to see him nominated.