Jacob Martin (formally known as The Movie King)’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film #17 of the Star Wars: 40th Anniversary Hunt
Task #33: A film starring Oscar Isaac
Also part of The Essentials
I'm not going to lie; I haven't seen that many Coen Brothers films. But of the films I've seen, I can't deny how marvelously crafted and snarky they are. Fargo is a deliciously dark comedic gem, O Brother Where Art Thou and Raising Arizona are both ingenious comedy classics filled with zany humor and brilliant filmmaking techniques, and True Grit is an underrated western that showcases the harshness of the old frontier.
But of all the Coen films I've seen, none has come as close to being a masterpiece as Inside Llewyn Davis. The film is so laid back in its storytelling compared to their other films that I'm stunned that the film is as great as it is. It's not as bonkers as their other films, not did it put a cheery smile on my face in its insanity. Rather, this is a bleak character piece about a struggling folk singer in the 60s trying to pay the dues, find places to stay, and further his career after his musical partner tragically committed suicide. There's a couple of Coen-esque jokes, but are mainly just chuckles and the movie gets its footing from its gorgeously bleak cinematography (surprisingly not Roger Deakins) and showcasing the struggles faced by musicians struggling to make it big.
I can't really say the film has a three-act structure, either, and there's not a real ending to Llewyn Davis' story. The genius of the film is that it's just a progress of one guy's struggling life rather than the atypical story structure you've seen over and over again.
Oscar Isaac's career didn't really take off until his Star Wars endeavor, but seeing him play a character also struggling to pay dues is kind of ironic, yet in works in all the right ways. He's not a likeable character here, as he's a constant a-hole who screws around married women, and constantly movies in with different people because he can't afford a proper home, but at the same time, he's also relatable to many people who've also struggled in the music scene, and also because most of his demons come from the loss of his friend who took his life. Isaac is one fire here, and his singing is genuine and real, like folk music should. Smart casting choice for this movie. Always cast an actor who can sing.
Also, who knew that Justin Timberlake can sing folksy music? The two songs he contributed were fantastic!!! He needs to do a folk/country record, seriously. Bring Oscar Isaac if he needs to, this project needs to happen!
I also found it funny that Oscar Isaac performs with Kylo Ren himself, Adam Driver, since we all know which sci-fi spectacle they would also star in together!
And John freaking Goodman. Even in a brief appearance, he makes a memorable turn. Kind of wished he provided a number, but was great all the same.
I have no issues with this movie. Inside Llewyn Davis is to date The Coen Brothers' finest movie I've seen that's very simple in its storytelling yet it leaves a larger impact on its passion for music and the artists that struggle to make such fine art.
Will definitely go down 50 years from now as.....
NEXT WEEK ON THE ESSENTIALS... Bicycle Thieves.