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‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is a Great Study of a Flawed Character

Photo: Courtesy Photo, License: N/A

Courtesy Photo

Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis: “I don’t need anything ... except this cat ... and this guitar ... and that’s all I need ... and this winter coat ... and this ...”

-What fans may have trouble sussing out is a traditional story arc. This is just a week in the life of a struggling singer-songwriter wrestling with the big decision: should he continue? Should he give up and get a job? Davis is always on the move and you don’t get much more than great character study, great writing and great acting.

“The film doesn’t really have a plot,” Joel Coen said, perhaps jokingly, at a press conference in Cannes before the movie won the Grand Prix. “That concerned us at one point; that’s why we threw the cat in.”

But just like the Hotel Earle itself became a key character in Barton Fink, you can’t talk about Inside Llewyn Davis without mentioning its soundtrack. It’s another dynamite folk/bluegrass production by T Bone Burnett (O Brother Where Art Thou?), with the added element of Isaac actually singing, playing and even arranging some of the songs. His voice resembles that of John Mayer, and his fingerpicking has all the subtlety Davis’ personality lacks. It’s a breakthrough role for Isaac and another Coen brothers jewel you’ll go back to again and again to find things you missed the first time.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Writ. and dir. Joel and Ethan Coen; feat. Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake (R)
Opens December 20 at the Bijou

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