|Director||Ethan Coen, Joel Coen|
|Starring||Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, Adam Driver|
|Release||6 DEC (US) 24 JAN (UK)|
Llewyn Davis is, frankly, a bit of an asshat, but Oscar Isaac plays him with a recognisable frustration at his own misfortune that allows us to take pity on him even when he's heckling other acts and shamelessly bumming cigarettes and sofas from strangers. Incapable of not pissing off everyone from his manager to his best friends (including a permanently enraged Carey Mulligan), he's a tortured soul at war with a world that doesn't want him. His journey brings him into contact with a roster of characters including John Goodman as a jazz dinosaur and Garrett Hedlund as a feckless Beat poet, but nobody wants to help him and his self-destructive nature serves only to fuel his art.
You don't need a PhD in folkology to "get" Inside Llewyn Davis, but a sketchy background knowledge of mid-20th century pop culture will definitely deepen your appreciation. Even without that, there's plenty of fun to be had in watching Isaac's homeless, struggling musician trying to survive and reach a wider audience without compromising his integrity. This requires him to literally and metaphorically try on different coats, some of which are decidedly ill-fitting, while simultaneously tracking down an elusive feline which may represent success, but might equally just be a dumb cat. Either way, the first hour is as funny, weird and, well, Coen-y as you could hope for. A turn towards the dark side leaves the film's home stretch fairly light on LOLs, but by the time it resolves (in a manner not dissimilar to most folk songs) you'll be too entranced by the songs, the characters and the cat's scrotum to care.
Shot with a wintry, Deakins-esque beauty by Bruno Delbonnel and featuring a must-buy album's worth of gorgeous songs (plus the delirious, Timberlake-infused "Please Mr Kennedy") curated by O Brother's musical overseer T-Bone Burnett, Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the best looking and sounding films of this year's London Film Festival. Some of its beats may work better as allegory than as part of the surface plot, but that only increases the desire for repeat viewings, and with the Coens, that's never a bad thing. Second, third, fourth time round it won't be as new, but it'll never get old.