INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
(director/writer: Joel & Ethan Coen;cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel; editor: Roderick Jaynes; cast: Oscar Isaac (Llewyn Davis), Carey Mulligan (Jean), John Goodman (Roland Turner), Garrett Hedlund (Johnny Five), F. Murray Abraham (Bud Grossman), Justin Timberlake (Jim), Max Casella (Pappi Corsicato), Jerry Grayson (Mel Novikoff), Robin Bartlett (Lillian Gorfein), Ethan Phillips (Mitch Gorfein), Stark Sands (Troy Nelson), Adam Driver (Al Cody), Jeanine Serralles (Joy), Steve Routman (Abortion Doctor), Stephen Payne (Mr. Hobby), Nancy Blake (Mrs. Hobby), Marcus Mumford (Mike), Benjamin Pike (Young Bob Dylan); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Scott Rudin/Ethan Coen/Joel Coen; CBS Films; 2013)
“Brings back a clear atmospheric recollection of that 1961 Village folk scene and though funny and a strangely joyful film, it leaves the charmless main character filled with emotional pain and despair.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Joel & Ethan Coen(“Barton Fink”/”A Serious Man”/”No Country For Old Men”), the renown Coen Brothers, marvelously write and direct this nostalgic dark dramedy of a fictional folk singer, against all odds, trying in the dreary winter of 1961 to make his way into the emerging 1960’s Greenwich Village folk-music scene. The down and out Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) takes the stage at the Village’s Gaslight Cafe at the same time a young Bob Dylan was seeking recognition.
A former merchant marine, distraught and self-absorbed, the prickly Llewyn Davis, someone who can’t connect with others, is forced to go solo after the suicide of singing partner Mike (voice of Brit musician Marcus Mumford). After free-loading in the Upper West Side apartment of Mitch and Lillian Gorfein (Ethan Phillips & Robin Bartlett), with Mitch his liberal Columbia University fan from the Gaslight, their pet cat escapes and when recaptured Llewyn can’t return it because he locked himself out. Llewyn then crashes with fellow singers Jim (Justin Timberlake) and Jean (Carey Mulligan), whom he considers squares, and before bounced from the pad the cat escapes while he’s brusquely told by the irate foul-mouthed Jean that she’s pregnant and doesn’t know if the baby is his or hubby’s, therefore she wants him to pay for an abortion.
The pic goes around in a circle, as it opens with Llewyn getting the shit kicked out of him in the back alley of the Gaslight by a hillbilly in a suit and ends with us seeing the beat down again, but this time seeing why it justifiably took place. In between we see one humiliation after another befall Llewyn–from not being paid by his untrustworthy agent Mel (Jerry Grayson), to desperately riding by car to Chicago to try and get an audition and on the long ride he must endure the hurtful barbs of a junkie jazz-man (John Goodman) and his hostile scurvy driver (Garrett Hedlund), and then he gets stung by the rejection of the Chicago impresario (F. Murray Abraham) he privately auditions for and must return defeated to NYC with little hope of reaching stardom.
It’s visually and sound-wise excellent, as it brings back a clear atmospheric recollection of that 1961 Village folk scene and though funny and a strangely joyful film, it leaves the charmless main character filled with emotional pain and despair. We are left in doubt whether or not the wise-ass Llewyn can make it or not, but we see how he lost his folk music idealism and now looks cynically upon everything, including his music. The Llewyn character was modeled on the late Dave Van Ronk, who never made it like he could have.
REVIEWED ON 12/6/2013 GRADE: B+