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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92099 comments
Moodi's Point
Moodi's Point

@jkfidd off the top of my head: Jon Brion (Eternal Sunshine), Grizzly Bear (Blue Valentine), and T. Bone Burnett (Inside Llewyn Davis)

hipogrifo
hipogrifo

Inside llewyn Davis ---> next!!

Deniece Sprinkle
Deniece Sprinkle

The Coen brothers Inside Llewyn Davis wins best film at the National Society of Film Critics awards.

Dayan Ballweg
Dayan Ballweg

I speak only for myself - but I know I have spent hours thinking about INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS and minutes thinking about 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

Kelly Lalama
Kelly Lalama

i really wanna rewatch inside llewyn davis but i'm afraid it would make me sad

M. Maciel
M. Maciel

Fargo; Inside Llewyn davis - balada de um homem comum; sobre meninos e lobos; detroit rock city; o fabuloso destino de amelie poulain;...

cara
cara

I think about Inside Llewyn Davis a lot

margaret chown
margaret chown

Finally watched Inside Llewyn Davis. Yeah, it ain't easy being an artist in any field. Coen Bros did good again.

Phoebe Lamb
Phoebe Lamb

if you know my older brother then watching inside llewyn davis should feel like watching an nyc version of callum's life

Mumford & Stuff
Mumford & Stuff

Praise the lawd, Inside Llewyn Davis is now available on Netflix in Canada

Ian
Ian

I wish I was watching Inside Llewyn Davis again.

Kerri MacDonald
Kerri MacDonald

Watching Inside Llewyn Davis again and am just completely awed by Oscar Isaac's talent. He's got a devastatingly gorgeous voice.

Michael Farmer
Michael Farmer

I wonder if they will ever make a porn called "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Michael
Michael

Inside Llewyn Davis Named Critics Best Film of 2013

James Fritz
James Fritz

My mother got kicked out of Inside Llewyn Davis because she wouldn't stop yelling "You should smile more" at the screen.

Peter Weller
Peter Weller

I finally got round to watching Inside Llewyn Davis tonight. Well worth a watch if you haven't seen it. Great soundtrack too!

Tyler Durden.
Tyler Durden.

Vi Inside Llewyn Davis y me gustó mucho. Buenísima.

Lolita
Lolita

#6: Inside Llewyn Davis [Blu-ray]: Inside Llewyn Davis [Blu-ray] Oscar Isaac (Actor), Carey Mulligan (Actor) |... amzn.to/XbrqpA

Colin
Colin

Watching inside Llewyn Davis, John Goodman is cracking me up. Superb as always.

Fellowship Of Film
Fellowship Of Film

Yes, you can own your very own piece of Steve's soul. His no. 1 movie of 2013, Inside Llewyn Davis, is only $9.99 over at Amazon.

Brad♥ pitt♥
Brad♥ pitt♥

Mulligan won acclaim for her smooth, buttery vocals on the Inside Llewyn Davis

Jonathan Sullivan
Jonathan Sullivan

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is about as captivating as other Coen Brothers movies. Holds your attention the entire time.

Caro Reyes
Caro Reyes

Nota: no tomar en serio ninguna lista de "Lo mejor del año" que incluya Inside Llewyn Davis y excluya Nebraska.

Keanu_reevebooks
Keanu_reevebooks

I loved Inside Llewyn Davis on first viewing, and I've grown to love O Brother Where Art Thou since watching it a couple weeks ago

Josh Medrano
Josh Medrano

Just got punched in the face by the conclusion of inside llewyn davis. Ouch.

Ana Luiza
Ana Luiza

Assisti Inside Llewyn Davis e não entendi?? Quem é o cara que fica batendo nele?

Josh Medrano
Josh Medrano

Watching inside llewyn davis. if it sucks at least I have the soundtrack to love

 sweet drop
sweet drop

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) benim için sountrack albümü filmi dövmüş oldu.

 

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