Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers’ latest success is a film about failure. Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is a talented singer-songwriter barely eking out an existence in the Greenwich Village bars and cafés of the early 1960s. Does he lack the spark of genius that turns a good artist into a great one? Or is he simply a man out of time, striving fruitlessly before the 1960s folk music scene really took off?
Inside Llewyn Davis is a wintry, melancholy comedy elevated into something more resonant by that inimitable Coen touch. As ever, the editing and camerawork (this time provided by Bruno Delbonnel) is perfectly judged and the cast (including John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham and Adam Driver) is imaginatively chosen, but it’s the sensational lead performance that powers the film. Llewyn is a prickly character prone to alienating anyone who can help him, but the film plays as a deeply empathetic portrait of a struggling artist, with Isaac’s heartfelt performances of Llewyn’s songs proving that, yes, he coulda been a contender. [Philip Concannon]