Inside Llewyn Davis is as close as the Coen's have come to reconnecting with that amazing energy of Barton Fink (1991 Palm d'Or winner). But comparatively they couldn't be more different films at heart.
Where Barton is a total dumbass recycling one concept over and over and never really taking his work seriously, Llewyn is a mashup of the opposite... with surprisingly similar results. That's a big piece of what makes this film kind of heartbreaking. The struggle of being an artist with integrity can so easily be strained by the nature of business. Llewyn seeks to be understood but faces a sea of careerists, businessmen, and half-empty have-nots... never really finding a way out of the perpetual cycle that has become his existence.
Effectively, the Coen brothers have put together one of their finest films of the last ten years.
They had the presence of mind to bring back John Goodman in a bizarre but crucial role. And of course he delivered. John Goodman is one of those actors who just never seems to get enough credit... no matter how much praise he does get. I mean, how does this guy not have an Oscar??
Oscar Isaac was brilliantly cast as the titular character. He drives this one home and sticks the landing bring with him a truth and emotional depth that couldn't have existed had he not already been so musically talented in his own right.
I love Carey Mulligan, and while we didn't get a lot of her here, I think we got enough. Her part was interesting in that dynamic that perhaps she is existing as something she is not. It layers the character with a dimension of inconsistency... though she is frequently attempting to stay on that one plain of constant annoyance. When she eventually stops yelling she really shines through. And I appreciated the casting of Justin Timberlake in a very meta role. I do wonder if he understands the movie's message, but the fact is he really doesn't need to. In many ways, it's probably better that he doesn't.
I could talk giddy about the Coen brothers for hours, possibly days, based on their body of work up to this point. So it only pleases me more to be able to say "they've done it again." Keep doing what you do guys.