While there’s no cure for the human spirit, everything on singer-songwriter Llewyn Davis’ (Oscar Isaac) rocky path toward uncertain celebrity is intended to break his. Penniless and newly solo following the tragic loss of a good friend and collaborator, Llewyn makes his rounds throughout the fumbling early-’60s folk scene, alternately targeting his boss for royalties on a new album and crashing on whichever couch is available. As the latter becomes increasingly limited on account of a malevolent fallout with a former flame (Carey Mulligan), Llewyn’s admirable if rapidly deteriorating creative drive is all he has left to steer him toward some semblance of a desirable lifestyle.
Agreeably mesmerizing and thematically explicit, Inside Llewyn Davis‘ unwaveringly downtrodden and humorous examination of the titular artist is precisely what the – well, at least my – doctor ordered. Benefiting at once and endlessly from a simply killer soundtrack, the film’s folk revival-era trappings are a welcome departure from what we’ve come to experience and expect. Even stronger still are Llewyn’s benchmark contributions, his skillful but polarizing implementation of human suffering in his music complimenting the Coens’ excellently illustrated feel.
Music aside, the Coens’ characteristically singular narrative tells an engaging tale like no other I’ve seen this year. In addition to the individual’s undying devotion to his craft, Llewyn Davis wholly exemplifies the man’s flaws and latent good-naturedness. Exacerbated by the frustrations brought on by obstacle after obstacle, Llewyn’s periodic outbursts aren’t so much acerbic as they are warranted. From alienating the last of his almost nonexistent support system to many an unaffordable financial setback, you can’t help but sympathize with him despite moments of contempt.
As an inspired, musically-inclined and tonally flawless character study, Inside Llewyn Davis is more than merely another modest triumph for the brotherly duo of auteurs at its helm. Rife with era-specific charm and general engagement, this deservedly lauded entry into 2013’s canon is accessible, relatable and even timely in the best of ways. Although he’s noticeably his own worst enemy, there’s no denying our inclination to join Llewyn on his less-than-fruitful pursuit of the slightest semblance of fame.