Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

inside llewyn davis poster 2013 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking and smart

Not as edgy as some of Coen Brothers films

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Inside Llewyn Davis

Studio:  StudioCanal

Genre(s):  Drama/Musical/Comedy

Release Date(s):  May 19, 2013 (Cannes Film Festival)/November 6, 2013 (France)/December 6, 2013 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

inside llewyn davis singing oscar isaac

Llewyn doesn’t sing the blues, but he sure has them

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a struggling folk singer in 1961 in Greenwich Village.  He’s just gone solo after the loss of his partner Mike and tries to get quick gigs from friends at the Gaslight Cafe.  Llewyn is facing a particularly tough week when he gets stranded with a friend’s cat and learns he might have impregnated Jean Berkey (Carey Mulligan) who is the wife of his friend Jim (Justin Timberlake).  On a last ditch effort, Llewyn finds himself on a journey to Chicago in the hopes of a contract with Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham)…or it could mean Llewyn might have to return to the life of a merchant marine like his father.

Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis is a musical comedy drama.  The film is inspired by the life of folk singer Dave Van Ronk (June 30, 1936-February 10, 2002).  The movie was released to much fanfare and like many of the Coen Brothers movies, nominated for multiple awards including Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing.  The film was released as part of the Criterion Collection (Criterion #794).

inside llewyn davis trio carey mulligan justin timberlake

Peter, Paul, and…Carey?

You could argue the Coen Brothers are an acquired taste and they are probably love-hate type directors for many.  Even within the Coen Brother “lovers”, you find division over there sometime weaker popular entries and their more artistic entries.  Inside Llewyn Davis is a rather artsy film but it also has a lot of appeal like their crossover hit O, Brother Where Art Thou?  While O, Brother Where Art Thou? is more of a musical comedy, Inside Llewyn Davis is a musical drama with comedy.

The reason that both O, Brother Where Art Thou? and Inside Llewyn Davis are similar is the core story.  Both films have an Odyssey theme and has very rounded stories.  Llewyn goes on a “great” journey to Chicago, but ends up right back where he started…home (with a great reference to Disney’s Incredible Journey).  The movie plays a little mind screw at the end in regards to this, but most people find they did spot it beforehand even though it isn’t directly pointed out (hint:  a tough night looks pretty good in the morning).

inside llewyn davis oscar isaac cat

Just a man and his “not his” cat…

Also like O, Brother Where Art Thou?, Inside Llewyn Davis is really driven by music.  Not only is the character a performer, but he finds himself surrounded by music.  Llewyn appears ahead of his time and while others in his life seem to be more pop-folk, Llewyn’s music seems deeper and more soulful.  I also love analysis of early folk which is now heralded but as John Goodman’s character points out, is simple chord progressions and was really looked down upon.

The movie wouldn’t have succeeded without the acting skills of Oscar Isaac.  Though he hasn’t been in a ton of films, he’s seems completely natural.  The movie smartly cast a real performer (Isaac is a Guatemalan actor and singer), and Oscar makes the sometimes despicable Llewyn somehow still likable.  The character despite multiple chances to “do the right thing” always seems to make the wrong choices.

inside llewyn davis please mr kennedy justin timberlake adam driver oscar isaac

You’re lucky Justin’s between us, Kylo Renn!!!

Isaac is backed by other fun actors.  Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan play Llewyn’s frustrated friends (and Mulligan gets one of the foulest mouths in the movie).  I like Ethan Phillips and Robin Bartlett’s as the “friends” who like to parade Llewyn as their “folk singer” friend.  Adam Driver has an early role as Al Cody (before later facing off against Isaac’s Poe Dameron as Kylo Renn).  Goodman’s trip to from New York to Chicago is memorable and reminiscent of Five Easy Pieces, and F. Murray Abraham is always good as Bud Grossman. Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons provides the voice of unseen partner Mike in old recordings (and Mumford also contributed to some of the original recordings).

inside llewyn davis john goodman

I will bring the pain!!!

Unlike some of the Coen Brothers movies, the film isn’t very stylized in shots and delivery, but it does use a muted color pallet (also similar to the dusty yellows of O, Brother Where Art Thou?).  It does a great job with the cold, empty nature of the story by presenting a cold world.  The old Greenwich Village of the ’60s looks great and the film is framed and shot masterfully.

Finding Llewyn Davis is a rather dark film.  The movie has some laughs, but it is rather bleak and hopeless.  The end of the film has you questioning if Davis will ever succeed or if his life is one continuous life of sleeping on couches and struggling for cash.  You hope that Llewyn’s voice will someday be heard, but it seems doubtful that he will overcome.

Related Links:

The 86th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response