Inside Llewyn DavisDecember 2, 2013
A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
Release Year: 2013
Rating: 7.7/10 (2,756 voted)
Director: Ethan Coen
Follow a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles — some of them of his own making.
Filming Locations: Medford, Minnesota, USA
Did You Know?
This film marks the second time Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan have played opposite each other. The first was in Drive where they played a husband and wife. See more »
In the mixed up world of Coen works, Inside Llewyn Davis stands as a
rather unique piece against the hilarious misadventures of films such
as The Big Lebowski (1998), Raising Arizona (1987) and O Brother, Where
Art Thou (2000). I'm tempted to compare this latest work to No Country
For Old Men (2007), but even then, No Country's morbid tone is at odds
with the poetic soul of Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). The film follows a
week in the life of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a mildly known folk
singer, embodying a Bob Dylan-esque sort of life in 1960's New York, as
he plays little-attended shows at The Gaslight Café in the West
Village. Painted as the unsung genius, Llewyn is at a standstill in his
life as he struggles to survive on what little money he has, and on
what few friendships remain. One such friendship that draws particular
focus is the complex ties between Llewyn, and fellow musicians, Jean
(Carey Mulligan) and Jim (Justin Timberlake). While Llewyn holds the
raw roots of his soulful folk above all else, Jean and Jim test the
waters of mainstream accessibility and stardom, a life that Llewyn
holds in little regard. At the risk of revealing too much about the
plot, Llewyn is loaded down with constant rejection, grapples with his
relationship with his father, and eventually drives to Chicago in a
last-ditch effort to salvage his meagre career.
Though Inside Llewyn Davis is at its heart, a beautifully understated
profile, it has some wonderfully funny moments as well – the best of
which concerning the tabby cat who more than once, manages to derail
Llewyn's already arduous life. One brilliant scene observes a shouting
match over the cat's lack of scrotum.
There are a few fresh faces to the Coen-verse with Carey Mulligan,
Justin Timberlake and Oscar Isaac in the titular role, but there's one
Coen regular whom I'm always jazzed to see. Barging unapologetically
into this reflective space, is the coked-up, crutch-wielding, ass hole
jazz man, Roland Turner, played by the large and loud John Goodman.
Toss in Steve Buscemi and I'd feel right at home!
Like their 2000 film, O Brother, Where Art Thou, the Coen Brothers took
on the talent of T-Bone Burnett to arrange their collection of folk
covers. With every soulful performance or every toe- tapping rendition,
it's the music of Llewyn Davis that will send you head over heels for
the film. Acting as a stark contrast to the grey, frost-licked New York
City, the warm passion of the soundtrack is the lifeblood of this
In its running time of 105 minutes, few definite conclusions are drawn
in regard to Llewyn's career and with the film ending in the same place
as it started, it seems unlikely that he will break free from his cycle
of obscurity. But then, the film really isn't about Llewyn's 'career'
or his friends, because this is a film about Llewyn. The beginnings of
the film highlight a raw, unabashed view on rejection and obscurity
accompanied by this nagging expectation that Llewyn's life might
blossom into a success story. But ultimately, that's not what the film
is about and it's goal is not to satisfy filmic convention. Inside
Llewyn Davis is very simply, a soulful and beautifully drawn portrait
of a man and his music.