Before I start I must confess I’m a huge Coen brothers fan. So much so that I recently went on a day-long course at Broadway Cinema (which was excellent by the way). I look forward to every Coen brothers release and when it’s coupled with a Palme d’Or win then you know you’re in for an entertaining two hours.
The looping storyline concerns the struggling titular character, a performing artist in New York’s Greenwich village, as he tries to make ends meet and regain the popularity he once had with his former singing partner Mike Timlin (who has since committed suicide). It is packed full of astonishing musical performances, not least from Oscar Isaac (previously famed for the King to Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, though set to become quite well known when he stars in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII). Joining him are Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan as the main stars of the film, though they are definitely in supporting roles. There are also cameos from heaps of great actors, my favourite being the highly comical contribution from John Goodman.
The soundtrack is clearly the driving force behind the storyline. One of the greatest achievements the Coens manage is to allow our attention to be fully dedicated to the music. It’s never a case of starting a song and cutting away to a montage or separate conversation whilst the song goes through the motions of a second verse or middle 8. It is clear they are truly passionate about the music that drives the story and in almost every case the song is uninterrupted from start to finish. It could well be the greatest Coen Brothers soundtrack yet, and if you’ve heard the O Brother Where Art Thou? OST then you know what a compliment that is.
If you’re looking for something to lift your mood, steer clear. Indeed, if you are a struggling artist yourself, you might also want to give it a wide berth unless you are just interested solely in excellent musicianship. With someone this talented struggling to make ends meet and not showing any sign of getting anywhere with his music, you might leave convinced to never pick the guitar up again. If you can put all that aside and simply appreciate the (perhaps surprisingly) excellent musicianship captured so perfectly here then you’re bound to be a happy viewer.
This film is not going to go down as one of the great Coen Brothers films. It just doesn’t have the indescribable magic of, say, The Big Lebowski or Fargo. It is by no means a terrible film, but I just don’t think it has the widespread appeal of some of their other releases. It’s well worth checking out, though I recommend you give it your full attention.
Inside Llewyn Davis is out now in UK cinemas.