The movie works like clockwork and without a flashy story, it often relies on its technical aspects. First off, I have to talk a bit about the music. Oscar Isaac's voice constantly takes us above the characters on screen in a serene manner. The period piece plays normally until the music starts to play and we drift into an odd reality separate from the physical world. Every time we feel landed in place, we are taken somewhere else. Solo songs such as "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" create a melancholic tone for the flick. They lift us up to an alternate space (possibly into Llewyn Davis's idea of himself), but also leave us grounded in the film. I know this is a weird review and analysis, but just bear with me on this one.
Another reason that I learned to respect this artistic film is the cinematography. There are some crazy good shots in this film, earning Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) an Oscar nomination. During one of the road trip scenes, there is a shot of the road that the car is driving down. The shot is defined clearly and even gave me a bit of nausea. The mise-en-scene is also appreciable with amazing settings ranging from a road blizzard to Greenwich Village. The lighting often glows with effervescence creating the 60s set. The film plays out like a spiritual 60s period piece that audiences will either love or hate.
The Bottom Line: The Coen brothers have proven versatility throughout their careers and Inside Llewyn Davis might be their most unique film to date.
Image credit: By Katrin Neuhaus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38735896