Inside Llewyn Davis Might Be the Best Coen Brothers Movie Yet

<I>Inside Llewyn Davis</I> Might Be the Best Coen Brothers Movie Yet

Folk music is supposed to be the music of the people. Yet at the heart of Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis, set in New York in the winter of 1961, is a folksinger with no feeling for people. Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac, is a broke, rumpled moocher who drifts from couch to couch until there are no couches left — either by drinking too much and getting rude or simply by opening his mouth to let his hostile thoughts flow out, he has a talent for alienating every friend he's got. He's also a gifted singer, the remaining half of a semi-successful duo that has broken apart with no hope of reuniting, but it's clear he's not going to be a hitmaker — the material he chooses leans toward traditional weepers about mourning dead lovers or ballads about young boys heading off to sea, music carried to America from the dark soul of the British Isles. If Llewyn had a bell, he most definitely would not ring it in the morning; he'd be too hungover, or at least just too pissed off at the world.

Llewyn is in many ways a dreadful human being, but you can't turn away from him. The Coens seem to love him, too: Inside Llewyn Davis is the warmest picture they've ever made, and though it will never attract the cultlike adoration of The Big Lebowski and Fargo, or earn the serious-lit-adaptation accolades of No Country for Old Men, it's possibly their best. Taking place over just a few days, it evokes a fleeting time, place, and vibe: The Village folk scene of the early 1960s, anchored around a few cavelike, no-frills clubs, was changed forever once Bob Dylan set foot on it — he was too explosive for it to contain him. But before that, in the heyday of Dave Van Ronk, a scruffy folk luminary who never became a true star, it was much more intimate. That pre-Dylan world, the setting for Inside Llewyn Davis, may be very small, but Llewyn is lost in it.

In the opening scene, Llewyn gets beaten up — for reasons that aren't clear until the end — in the alley behind one of the little clubs he's just played. Shortly thereafter, he loses a cat belonging to the friends who have generously put him up for a night, a lovely marmalade fellow with a question mark for a tail. And when he shows up at the doorstep of another friend, fellow folk singer Jean (Carey Mulligan), we get an even better sense of his ability to alienate people. She's furious, a thundercloud in a turtleneck and shaggy blunt bangs. As it turns out, even though she's the live-in (and singing) partner of another friend (played, wonderfully, by a super-earnest Justin Timberlake), she and Llewyn have a history. You can see why: Llewyn is devastatingly handsome in a Sephardic way, the kind of damaged goods some women can't help falling for. But Jean need only lay eyes on him before cutting him dead — she takes just like a woman, yes she does.

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Location Info

Map

AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13‎

1998 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: West 60s

Regal Union Square Stadium 14

850 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Union Square

Details

Inside Llewyn Davis
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
CBS Films
Opens December 6, AMC Loews Lincoln Square and Regal Union Square



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Llewyn has already screwed everything up. Why stop now? Though Inside Llewyn Davis is essentially a New York movie, in a desperate effort to grab the attention of a hotshot record producer (F. Murray Abraham in a beatnik goatee), Llewyn takes a road trip to Chicago, hitching a ride with a surly big-daddy jazz cat (John Goodman) and his too-cool-for-school minder (Garret Hedlund). But Llewyn's real odyssey takes place deep inside: As Isaac plays him, he's a punky lost lamb in need of saving, though no one can get close enough to do it; his eyes say "come closer" even as he's kicking away mightily. He's impatient with stupidity, both real and perceived. But he has a capacity for tenderness, too. It's certainly there in his singing — Isaac does his own, in a voice that's dusky and sad but also luminous as the moon. He's a character in mourning, both for another person and for lost parts of himself. The latter are harder to get over.

Inside Llewyn Davis gets everything softly, quietly right. T-Bone Burnett supervised the music, and it never sounds as if it's been lifted out of some dusty vault — it's alive. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel gives us a half-tarnished, half-burnished vision of early 1960s New York, just dreamy enough, rather than laden with false nostalgia. The movie features one of the finest marmalade-cat performances since The Long Goodbye. (Technically, we're talking about several cats, but let's look the other way for the sake of movie magic.) And although the Coens are consummate craftsmen, they don't always show the lightness of touch or the depth of feeling they do here. Llewyn is suffering, and though we can't forsake him, it's hard not to laugh at his terrible misadventures. He's behaving badly in a typically New York kind of way, fumbling his way through his stress. Intentionally or otherwise, the Coens might be channeling the Hal Ashby of The Landlord, or Next Stop, Greenwich Village–era Paul Mazursky. Whatever they're doing, it's remarkable — cockeyed humanism at its best.

Credit: CBS Films

Cutline: Bringing It All Back Home: Oscar Isaac and friend

 
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94415 comments
grace
grace

last year I was a accidentally a one woman PR person for inside llewyn davis. this year, I think I shall do the same for dear white people

Gyp
Gyp

Going deep inside Llewyn Davis

Ryan Davis Ebooks
Ryan Davis Ebooks

My 5 Fav 13 Films: Inside Llewyn Davis proves its point about how good a thing it was to have Putin distracted during Ukrainian unrest?

BUTT CANNONS
BUTT CANNONS

Watching Inside Llewyn Davis at this point in my existence was probably a big mistake.

Gyp
Gyp

Going deep Inside Llewyn Davis, if you know what I mean

maddie
maddie

proof that I talk about inside llewyn davis too much: all of my autocorrect history

Juli
Juli

Ayer vi "Inside Llewyn Davis" y los Coen otra vez demuestran su amor por Homero.

Chris Elena
Chris Elena

Post a link to Please Mr Kennedy from Inside Llewyn Davis on Facebook...get asked if I've seen IN TIME less than 10 seconds later. Yep.

Maika
Maika

I am so obsessed with the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack its ridiculous

Greg Keenan
Greg Keenan

After watching Inside Llewyn Davis a few nights ago I can only assume that there is a pro-American Hustle/David O'Russel Bias.

DEW
DEW

Five Hundred Miles - Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Stark Sands [Inside Llewyn Davis OST] fb.me/3cnWg2It3

Joseph Braverman
Joseph Braverman

One day AMPAS will explain to us why they disliked Inside Llewyn Davis so much despite it coming from their their fave Bromance, The Coens

Guillermo
Guillermo

I have the strongest urge to watch Inside Llewyn Davis right now

Joel
Joel

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is a tough nut to crack.

Amy McCarthy
Amy McCarthy

okay, Inside Llewyn Davis was greeeeaaaaaat

Stephanie White
Stephanie White

Finally watched Inside Llewyn Davis. Pretty darn good quirky Cohen bros flick with great music and a cat.

Artorius
Artorius

Ahora viendo: Inside Llewyn Davis.

Kelsey bolander
Kelsey bolander

Recently rediscovered the inside llewyn Davis soundtrack and 😍😍

Amy McCarthy
Amy McCarthy

Starting with Inside Llewyn Davis. Obsessed with anything Coen, and now they have added great music again? Sold.

Sara
Sara

like right now I'm listening to a mix of @springsteen, U2, Disney songs, and the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack

Luni ★
Luni ★

que peliculon Inside Llewyn Davis por favorrr 👌

Tom Rickard
Tom Rickard

i.e. Pacific Rim, Eraserhead, Rushmore, A Clockwork Orange, Brick andd Inside Llewyn Davis

Nathan
Nathan

the Lightbox has an entire library of film textbooks and is playing the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack this is too cool

 

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