Inside Llewyn Davis
Winter 2014 Features series
Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 4:00pm
Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:00pm
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Screenplay by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Starring John Goodman, Carey Mulligan, and Oscar Isaac
Rated NR ·
France / USA
Inside Llewyn Davis
Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Inside Llewyn Davis recounts a desolate week in the life of a fictional folk musician in early 1960s New York. Brilliantly written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski), the film is a humorous, heartfelt and bittersweet ode to squandered opportunities, thwarted ambition and unsung genius.
A gorgeous opening scene in Greenwich Village’s Gaslight Café introduces us to Llewyn Davis (a delightfully rumpled and bearded Oscar Isaac; Drive, W.E.) as he sings a bleak but beautiful song called “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me.” Llewyn has been attempting a solo career, having just split from his performing partner, but despite his extraordinary talent and good looks, he just can’t seem to catch a break. Desperately low on money, he tramps the cold streets of New York, guitar in hand, playing only the tiniest of gigs. He is essentially living a transient existence, bouncing from apartment to apartment and crashing on the couches of anyone who will have him—and some who won’t. With his music career stalled, Llewyn has reached a personal crossroads and is unsure whether to continue in a world that doesn’t seem ready for what his songs have to say.
Loosely inspired by the life and music of iconic Greenwich Village folk musician Dave Van Ronk and his memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street, Inside Llewyn Davis perfectly captures the atmosphere of the sixties folk boom through its resonant soundtrack (curated by T-Bone Burnett), exquisite production design and cinematography. Isaac gives a mesmerizing performance in the lead, suffusing his troubled troubadour with both easy charm and subdued anger. Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby, An Education) stands out in her supporting role as an irascible and foul-mouthed fellow folk musician who may or may not be pregnant with Llewyn’s child.
Moving and mordantly funny, Inside Llewyn Davis shows the Coen Brothers at the top of their game.
“This is a gorgeously made character study leavened with surrealistic dimensions both comic and dark, an unsparing look at a young man who, unlike some of his contemporaries, can’t transcend his abundant character flaws and remake himself as someone else.” (Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter)
“The Coens have given us a melancholic, sometimes cruel, often hilarious counterfactual version of music history. It’s a what-if imagining of a cultural also-ran that maybe tells us more about the truth than the facts themselves ever could.” (David Calhoun, Time Out London)
“Brilliantly written, terrifically acted, superbly designed and shot; it’s a sweet, sad, funny picture about the lost world of folk music which effortlessly immerses us in the period.” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)