Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★★½

A portrait of an artist as eternal wanderer, Joel and Ethan Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis" is a sometimes contemplative, sometimes amusing look at a Greenwich Village folk musician trying to find his place in the world. Itinerant but determined to be true to his perception of his craft, the Coen Brothers' creation circles almost aimlessly from couch to coffee house dais in this gorgeously filmed and sumptuously designed fable.

More a subtle character study than concrete narrative, "Inside Llewyn Davis" allows its audience to observe the film's protagonist in a low stakes game of gigs and personal interactions. Llewyn plays, he wanders, he finds a way get some cash, he clashes with the people in his life, and he plays again. It is a quest without a defined destination, a journey without a recognizable home.

The Coens construct their film beautifully. The editing is thoughtful and seamless. The cinematography evokes the faded covers of 50-year-old record album covers, creating scenes that are both warm and rich, chilly and dreary. The attention to period detail cements an unquestionable sense of place and time.

As with the rest of their canon, the Coens also offer a generous helping of sharply drawn and well-performed characters. Starting with Oscar Isaac's Davis, characters are memorable and colorful, releasing torrents of superbly crafted and witty dialogue. Moreover, may of the actors are required to sing, adding another level of enjoyment to the performances. Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman, to name a few, are ideally cast.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" may not have the firmest of narratives, but its ironies and themes, symbols and suggestions more than make up for the lack of typical plot. It is a lovely looking film with soulfully and wittily crafted performances. Though its initial rewards are plentiful, this is a piece of work that is bound to reveal more pleasures with subsequent viewings.

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