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By Megan Bianco
Joel and Ethan Coen have been making strange films their entire careers, since 1984. While not weird enough to turn off most audiences, like directors Terry Gilliam or Todd Solondz, the Coens’ movies are often strange enough to keep viewers interested while raising an eyebrow.
The brothers have established a cult following with Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and became Oscar darlings with Fargo, No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man. Their latest feature, Inside Llewyn Davis, like their previous effort True Grit, tries to “normalize” the duo’s movies just a little bit.
In 1961 Greenwich Village, a struggling folk musician named Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) sleeps on his friends’ couches regularly, owes money, can’t get his new solo album sold and is still mourning his music partner’s suicide. As if things aren’t bad enough, Llewyn discovers he’s impregnated Jean (Carey Mulligan), the wife of fellow musician Jim (Justin Timberlake).
Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, Adam Driver and F. Murray Abraham make appearances throughout Llewyn’s short odyssey. Inside Llewyn Davis features some noticeable “Coenisms” but carries a bleak realism that sticks with the audience. Isaac delivers one of the best lead performances of the year, one deserving of some award nods, and T-Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford create one of the great soundtracks of 2013. While Llewyn Davis fails as a successful musician, his story finds a small spotlight to shine.