Posted by: ckckred | December 23, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis


Inside Llewyn Davis, the newest movie by Joel and Ethan Coen, might be different than what audiences expected.  The subject matter, a down and luck singer struggling in his day to day life, may cause viewers to think that the film is a comedy in the style of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but Inside Llewyn Davis is a darker, more personal picture for the Coens.  The directors have always asserted an interest in dysfunctional and eccentric characters; even when the Coens switch genres, they always keep their movies actor-based.  Inside Llewyn Davis does not break off from this successful formula, but it stresses its individuality even more so than the Coens’ other work, it’s absurdly funny yet heartbreaking at the same time.

The title character, played by Oscar Isaac, is a small folk musician playing in early 60s New York, just before Bob Dylan hit the scene.  Llewyn is a talented artist but his career wanders nowhere.  Much like Larry Gopnick, the protagonist of the brothers’ A Serious Man, Llewyn suffers a string of ill fortune.  He’s constantly in debt, homeless, accidentally loses his friend’s cat, and may have impregnated fellow musician Jean (Carey Mulligan), who demands an abortion worried that it will upset her husband Jim (Justin Timberlake).  Unlike Gopnick, though, who questions his bad luck as a result to his faith to God, Llewyn is partially responsible for his troubles.  Llewyn agonizes and irritates everyone around him with his troubles and irrepressible attitude and never takes full ownership of his profession; after working on a professional song, Llewyn turns down royalties to get a quick and easy check.  “You’re like King Midas’ idiot brother,” Jean tells him.  “Everything you touch turns to s**t.”

Joel and Ethan Coen don’t supply a direct linear story but a series of events for the plot as Llewyn climbs from one place or another.  The longest section of Inside Llewyn Davis is when Llewyn heads to Chicago to meet folk producer Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) about his solo album.  He takes a lift with a beatnik pair of Jazz players (John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund).  Goodman’s character, who stoned and wearily lies in the back of the car, asks Llewyn what music does he play.  When Llewyn tells his he does folk songs, Goodman replies with deadpan grace, “I thought you said you were a musician.”

Combining melancholy and humor has always been a strength for the Coen brothers and Inside Llewyn Davis may epitomize that trait for the directors.  Even the most depressing moments are tinged with comic timing, though not coming off as if the Coens are laughing at Llewyn; Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography combines saturated colors in such a way the convey the dark mood it feels as black and white as Alexander Payne’s Nebraska.  Rather, they portray him as a man who could have been something, a big star.  Llewyn may have his faced shoved on the ground but it’s clear that Joel and Ethan Coen admire the man.  Isaac’s performance helps build up Llewyn as a character and makes him unsympathetic yet hard to dislike.  His singing and biting humor make him perfect for the role.  Other members of the cast also help set Inside Llewyn Davis‘ tone.  Carey Mulligan, one of the best actresses working today (and also costarred with Isaac in Drive), provides a biting edge, similar to other women counterparts in the Coens’ work.  John Goodman, reuniting with the brothers for the first time in thirteen years, also gives the movie many of its best laughs in his small role.

Collaborating with T-Bone Burnett, who worked with the duo for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coens populate their soundtrack with a great number of folk songs, from “Hang Me, O Hang Me” sung by Oscar Isaac with disparity to the closing tune of Bob Dylan’s “Farewell,” surely hinting a new age of folk.  The best of Inside Llewyn Davis‘ soundtrack is “Please Mr. Kennedy,” a incredibly funny song about the Space Race sung by Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Adam Driver.  It’s well worth buying the score, which will surely charm people who even don’t enjoy folk music.

Sharp, cunning, and gloomy all at the same time, Inside Llewyn Davis is one of Joel and Ethan Coen’s best movies and their strongest since No Country For Old Men.  It’s an in-tune comic masterpiece that is the finest film I’ve seen thus far in 2013.


  1. YESSS! Now that’s what I wanted to hear. “finest film I’ve seen thus far in 2013”. Great stuff, man. I’m looking forward to it.

    • Thanks! I mean the highest bit of praise. One of the Coens’ best.

  2. Fine review here mate and you’ve properly got me hyped for this. Definitely going to check it out when it hits here.

    • Thanks! I’ve been waiting for this all year and it exceeded my expectations. Hope you enjoy it.

  3. Can’t wait for it to open here. Solid review.

    • Thanks! It’s a superb film and probably the best I’ve seen this year.

  4. High praise indeed. Can’t wait to see it.

    Hope I like it as much as you.

    • Thanks! Best movie of 2013 thus far in my opinion.

      • When it gets a wide release and I’m finally able to see it, I’ll let you know if I agree. 😉

  5. Great review. I wasn’t that interested in this film prior to reading this review, that’s changed, lol.

    • Thanks! I mean the highest bit of praise. The funniest and best movie of the year in my opinion.

  6. Back on Dec 10th I responded to your comment on my review with, “I predict it will become your favorite movie of the year.” I should become a psychic. LOL

    Great review!

    • Thanks! I’ve been critical of 2013 before as a film year, but the last month or so has really been shaping up. This is the best I’ve seen thus far and I still have to watch The Great Beauty, Her, and The Wolf on Wall Street.

  7. Nice to read such a positive review – am looking forward to this a lot. Jeez the cinema is going to clean me out over Christmas and the New Year!

    • Thanks! I was looking forward to Inside Llewyn Davis for a long time and it exceeded my expectations. And it looks that there will be more great movies within the next few weeks with Her and The Wolf on Wall Street.

      • Yeah, really good period!

  8. I always think that I don’t *get* the Coens’ style and seeing this film confirmed it even more 🙂

    • I can definitely see the movie’s style as off-putting. I’m a big fan of the Coens’ and really enjoyed their take on the folk scene. Thanks for the comment.

  9. And the Coens do it again! I’m so pleased this is great. Very nicely reviewed my friend and Merry Christmas!

    • Thanks and merry Christmas as well! Best of the year in my opinion, at least from what I’ve seen thus far.

  10. Good review. I gave this an 8.5, but the more that I think about it, it’s definitely a 9, if not higher. One of the very best of the year and one that will probably need to be re-watched by me sooner or later. Hopefully it’s sooner, than later.

    • Thanks! The more I think about it, the more I like Inside Llewyn Davis as well and I’ll definitely revisit it soon, hopefully in theaters.

  11. “Sharp, cunning, and gloomy all at the same time” sounds like my kind of film. Great review!

    • Thanks! Best movie I’ve seen all year.

  12. Excellent review, this is on my watchlist.

    • Thanks! Hope you like it.

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