Review: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 16 January 2014


Well-acted, if flawed melancholy drama with a unique touch of Coen brothers' dark sense of humour.

After scoring their biggest hit to date with their first Western genre, TRUE GRIT (2010 -- a critically-acclaimed movie which I personally thought was overrated), the Coen brothers goes low-key with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.


Set in the winter season of 1961, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS revolves around Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a talented folk singer who suffers a rough week following Timlin's unexpected suicide, his music partner at which they sing together as a folk group duo called Timlin & Davis. As Llewyn tries to embark on a solo career, his journey proves to be an unpleasant experience. With no money for a place of his own, he forced to crash with various friends from time to time. He even had a hard time trying to get paying gigs, while his girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) thinks he's a total loser.

From the sublime opening scene that begins with Llewyn singing "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" at the Gaslight bar, the Coen brothers successfully captured the melancholic atmosphere of the 1960s folk music scene surrounding New York's Greenwich Village. With the help of lush cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel and the distinctive period look by production designer Jess Gonchor, the movie certainly has the lived-in quality that transports you into the particular era. Even though INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is a depressing movie, the Coen brothers manage to strike a fine balance between their downbeat tone and dark-comedy element without going overboard one after another.

Apart from the Coen brothers' beautifully restrained direction, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is also a musical triumph for its folk music. This is largely thanks to the talented T-Bone Burnett himself, at which the songs are performed live by the actors themselves. From the above-mentioned "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" to "Five Hundred Miles" and a particular uplifting tune of "Please Mr Kennedy", all the songs are simply top notch.

As for the actors, Oscar Isaac scores a breakthrough performance as the soulful Llewyn Davis. He's particularly terrific the way he expresses the lyric when he sings a folk song while strumming his guitar with full of emotion. Equally great is the highly-talented Carey Mulligan, who is memorable as the estranged and foul-mouthed Jean. The rest of the supporting actors, even the small roles from Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund to F. Murray Abraham, have their fair share of acting highlights.

Three folk songs -- "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me", "Five Hundred Miles" and "Please Mr Kennedy" -- are particular highlights that stuck in my head. The blackly comic but symbolic scene involving the orange cat is another must-see sequence.
The debatable finale somewhat left me cold, and yet unsatisfied the way Coen brothers chooses to end the fate of Llewyn's career journey.

Minor flaw aside, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS remains one of Coen brothers' best movies ever made in their illustrious career.

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