Clipper Online Editor
Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)
Rated R for language including some sexual references.
Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham, Stark Sands, Jeanine Serralles, Adam Driver, Ethan Phillips, Alex Karpovsky, Max Casella, Benjamin Pike.
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
The Coen Brothers prove once again that long journeys and troubled musicians make for good cinema. Much like O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, Inside Llewyn Davisuses some great music to weave a tapestry of characters and events into a heartfelt story of art and life experience.
Oscar Isaac stars as Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer trying to make a living in the early 60s in New York City's Greenwich Village. Without many prospects since his former musical partner committed suicide, Llewyn often crashes on the couches of friends, fans, and family. After one such sleepover at a fan's apartment, Llewyn accidentally lets their cat escape and locks himself out. He takes the cat to the apartment of Jean and Jim (Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake), two of his friends and fellow folk singers. While there, Jean informs Llewyn that she is pregnant and that he (not her husband) is the father.
Having worn out his welcome, Llewyn departs NYC on a trip to Chicago (cat in tow) with a jazz musician (John Goodman) and his silent James Dean-like driver Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund). During the trip, Llewyn loses the cat and parts ways with his fellow travelers before arriving in Chicago in time to audition for a club owner (F. Murray Abraham) with recording contract connections.
After the audition, Llewyn returns to NYC, where he repeats the same experiences he went through at the beginning of the film – leaving the audience to wonder whether his journey really happened – or was just a dream. The story has an arc much like a Greek fable (just like O, Brother, Where Art Thou?).
Inside Llewyn Davis is a great film, albeit a little dark and quirky (a Coen Brothers staple). Oscar Isaac's performance is “Oscar-worthy,” despite playing a character who not very likeable. Other actors provide great supporting roles, including Mulligan, Goodman and Abraham. The cat even deserves some credit for providing an opportunity for Llewyn to display a little humanity.
Inside Llewyn Davis' greatest asset is its music - complete with original folk songs by T. Bone Burnett and performed beautifully by Isaac, Timberlake, Mulligan and others. If you like the kind of folk music that ushered in the era of Bob Dylan and others, it's a great musical homage to another place in time.