RELEASED: 24th January 2014
DIRECTOR: The Coen Brothers
CAST: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, F. Murray Abraham, Garrett Hedlund, Stark Sands, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Alex Karpovsky, Max Casella, Frank L. Ridley, Jeanine Serralles, Ben Pike and Marcus Mumford
BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $32.9m
AWARDS: None (2 Academy Award nominations, 3 Golden Globe nominations and 3 BAFTA nominations)
Follow a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, some of them of his own making.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a 2013 musical comedy-drama hybrid from the Coen Brothers, set in New York, 1961, focusing on Llewyn Davis, who lives in Greenwich Village. He’s a folk singer struggling to make money off his latest record, is crashing on the couches of friends and acquaintances each night as he tries to make ends meet by gigging at the Gaslight. As we learn of Llewyn’s musical backstory, we witness how he pins his hopes of auditioning for famed impresario Bud Grossman and hitches a ride to Chicago that leads to more mishaps for him. From the opening sequence of Llewyn Davis singing ‘Hang Me, Oh Hang Me’ at the Gaslight Cafe to how the film comes full circle in the finale, I was immediately entranced by Llewyn’s journey and the story never lost its grip on me. Llewyn is a singer-songwriter that we witness acting on impulse rather than allowing himself time to think in moments that can pay off for him in the long run, particularly in one case in which he accepts quick cash upfront doing a day’s work rather than gain royalties on a potential novelty hit single. We see other examples over the course of the films one hour and forty-five minute runtime in which, while talented, Llewyn pretty much self-sabotage’s any potential he has to get out of his current plight of being virtually homeless, moving from one person’s couch to another, even at one point when one character Llewyn encounters threatens to put a curse on him that you can’t help but laugh because, as we see, with Llewyn’s misfortunes in life as of late, how could it possibly become worse than what it already is? There’s also the sub-plot in which you as the viewer tries to interpret just what happened to Llewyn’s music partner Mike Timlin, just who was he to Llewyn and everyone else in their circle and why did he commit suicide? Trying to make a name for himself as a solo artist, we see how Llewyn tries to handle that loss, particularly in a dinner table scene with Mitch and Lillian Gorfein that is handed in a low-key, yet effectively sad as we feel the initial pain in Llewyn’s tone and how he unleashes that pain into anger. The film is wonderfully directed by the Coen Brothers, with wonderful cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel, particularly in how he captures natural light in a number of scenes, especially in a sequence that involves a cat experiencing the rush of being on a moving subway train, looking at the brief flashes of light on various platforms it passes by that is mesmerising to watch. Oscar Isaac gives arguably his best performance to date as he carries the film on his shoulders as Llewyn Davis, a nearly-man who is a self-admitted asshole, though you hope in the several chances he has to breakout or earn an honest living he’ll take it, yet either blind bad-luck, his moral integrity gets in the way. The rest of the ensemble have their chances to shine too, particularly Carey Mulligan with her performance as Jean Berkey, who constantly tears Llewyn apart, Ethan Phillips and Robin Barlett are really good as the Gorfein’s, a couple who provide Llewyn a place to crash when he’s out of other options. Inside Llewyn Davis is definitely not only one of my favourite films from the Coen Brothers, it’s one of my favourite films of the decade.
FAVOURITE SCENE: The dinner table scene with Llewyn singing ‘Fare Thee Well’ meets the fine balance of sadness and comedic timing when Lillian returns horrified that the cat that Llewyn brought back earlier is the wrong sex.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “I’m tired. I thought I just needed a night’s sleep but it’s more than that.” – Llewyn Davis
DID YOU KNOW: Although there was talk of nominating ‘Please, Mr. Kennedy’ for a Best Original Song Oscar, the fact that it was an amalgam of several period songs, novelty and otherwise, meant the Academy had to pass.