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If I heard the Coen brothers were to film the Arkansas regional yellow pages, I would not hesitate to buy a ticket. Which is weird, as their output is anything but consistent from where I’m standing. There is a “Ladykillers” for every “Fargo” and an “Intolerable Cruelty” for every “No Country…”. But when they hit the right buttons, the results are so rewarding I would not miss it for the life of me. At their best they are such an insurmountable force and source of beautiful images, sardonic humour and melancholic drama that I do not care anymore what their films are about. I would rather see three of their failures rather than missing out on a good one. “Inside Llewyn Davies” is a good one, even though I do not give zip about American folk music or cats, find the music usually a torture to my ears and the pets as well as their owners sometimes hard to endure. But such is their craftsmanship: Take a slightly talented, not too likable folk musician, expose him cruelly to his own failures (especially by showing him where success can be found quite easily: in a goofy run-of-the-mill pop song with Justin Timberlake), and then expose him to John Goodman, which is always a life-changing and creepy thing in Coen movies.

Even though Llewyn Davies is a person I would usually not like a lot, I could feel his melancholic quest for the next step in life, his lack of willingness to adjust himself, him feeling insulted by a world that clearly does not understand his art. To adjust a line from “The Commitments”: He is a person who finds it much cooler to be an unemployed musician than an unemployed sailor, but the result is almost the same, he is just utterly unable to get a grip on his life, and relies on what’s left of his friends to keep going at all. Oscar Isaac is splendid at this. Of course he is a suitable choice because of his dual career in music and acting – but he is a great choice in particular because he manages to keep his sad eyes steady on the dark road ahead, manages to suffer the slings and arrows etc. without even twitching, just keeps on going, with very little change of sluggish pace. He is kind of a Lebowski if Lebowski would have had any form of talent, but the result is not very different, minus the White Russians. And because Isaac’s Llewyn Davies is such a consistent and credible representative of this very life, I also very much enjoyed the music he performs, because it is a very truthful expression of himself, and the only thing he is good at is being truthful to his music.

Well done, Coens, to mix this melancholy with hilarious outbursts at dinner tables, cat testicles (or the lack of them), Goodman monologues, and all the rest of the cast typically populating Coen films. Utterly enjoyable, despite the music and the cat(s?)!

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/inside_llewyn_davis_2013/

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