Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★★

[78]

Was hesitant to watch this for the longest time due to its polarizing nature; people either seem to despise it completely or hail it a modern masterpiece, and while I'm not quite to that level yet, I'm kicking myself for putting this off so long. I can't remember the last time the first 30-minutes of a movie completely captivated me like they did here; the funny thing is that not much really happens—an ode to Oscar Isaac's screen presence as well as his ability to sing folk songs (and, I'm assuming, play the guitar—it looked as though he wasn't just miming). It's just an achingly beautiful movie from both a songwriting perspective as well as a purely visual one; there's a soft, cloudy filter to the lens that gives the film a withered aura, and I mean that in the best way possible. My biggest reservation with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is the Coens' tendency to resort to their overly verbose and caricature-heavy humor; I'm referring almost entirely to John Goodman's washed-up jazz artist here, and while his presence is nevertheless loaded with humorous moments, it almost undermines the sincerely earnest effort the rest of the film puts forward. Fortunately, Goodman still handles the part with enough confidence as to not derail the picture completely, and it isn't long before we're thrust back into the metaphysical cyclone of desperation via Llewyn's failed attempts at "making it big." Slowly paced but never boring; I suppose if folk music ain't your thing, you'd be turned off by many of the intimate performances on display, but they had my full attention from the first frame to the last. Probably the Coen brothers' most meditative film since NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN; when else would they relish in the sensory enchantment of an orange tabby cat peering through a subway train window, watching the world fly by at what must seem to him like the speed of light for the first time? Already looking forward to seeing this again.

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