Inside Llewyn Davis: The Coen brothers' character study fine but flawed

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comJanuary 10, 2014 

Film Review Inside Llewyn Davis

This film image released by CBS FIlms shows, from left, Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver in a scene from "Inside Llewyn Davis." (AP Photo/CBS FIlms, Alison Rosa)


No one does better character studies than Joel and Ethan Coen. Multidimensional and deep-but-flawed characters are their specialty. Few Coen creations are more flawed than folk singer Llewyn Davis.

Set in pre-Bob Dylan 1961, Davis is struggling to just survive. With no place to call home, a desperate Davis couch surfs. Personality issues abound. The narcissistic, self-absorbed Davis is dealing with a career that's going nowhere, a pregnant lover and the crisis of the loss of his former partner.

The film covers just a few days. In that time, we not only get introduced to the unlikable Davis, but we also meet others in his life who are, if it's possible, even more shallow.

Oscar Isaac is Davis. In real life, he's a good folk singer and a decent guitarist. He's joined by Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, who play folk-singing friends, and John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund, who are traveling companions. In terms of acting, all are really good. But that's acting. The movie is another story.

Admittedly, Inside Llewyn Davis is a brilliant piece of work and is an absolute must-see. Folk music fans will find the music flawless. The story is where you'll find the warts. It is almost impossible to like or relate to Davis or any of the movie's characters.

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Rated R for mature themes and language. It's playing at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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