The Coen Brother make perfect films. They are not always great films but they are crafted with such precision and attention, that whatever the genre, they are perfect. Sometimes they are perfect in failure but more often in triumph.
This new film reaches for greatness but falls a bit short. It takes place during the folk scene of New York in 1961. Rather than explore that period in a wider scope, the Coen's focus on one particular fictional musician, Llewyn Davis. Davis is played by Oscar Isaac and he is a revelation. His character is very complex, a talented artist but a difficult person. He cares more for his art than commercial success yet he chases the success that eludes him anyway.
The film also features Cary Mulligan and Justin Timberlake as a successful folk duo, John Goodman as a jazz musician Llewyn meets on a road trip, and F. Murray Abraham as a promoter in Chicago. Most of the actors drift in and out of the movie as it revolves around Llewyn. Besides Mr. Isaac, no one else has any sustained screen time. There is a standout scene involving a recording session with Mr. Isaac, Mr. Timberlake and Adam Driver, but the film really belongs heart and soul to Mr. Isaac. The trick the Coen's pull off is that you keep rooting for Llewyn no matter how abrasive and unlikable he becomes.
While the film has its flaws (even in it's perfection), the music is terrific so credit executive producer T. Bone Burnett for an outstanding folk soundtrack performed by the actors.
And of course, the cinematography and the visuals in general are outstanding.
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is a perfectly good film that could have been great, ironically much like the title character.