Inside Llewyn Davis
dir-scr Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
prd Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin
with Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Adam Driver, Stark Sands, Max Casella, Alex Karpovsky, F Murray Abraham, Jerry Grayson, Sylvia Kauders
release US 6.Dec.13, UK 24.Jan.14
13/US StudioCanal 1h45
Inside Llewyn Davis
Studio session: Isaac, Timberlake and Driver

mulligan goodman hedlund
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Inside Llewyn Davis In a whimsical mood, the Coens explore a musical movement through the eyes of someone who thinks he should cut his losses and run. On the other hand, he has nothing left to lose. Anchored by a hugely engaging performance by Isaac, the film is a meandering odyssey that's packed with great ideas and wonderful characters, leaving us smiling rather than thinking.

In 1961 New York, Llewyn Davis (Davis) is a respected folk musician whose career has stalled. With nowhere to live, he moves from couch to couch, accidentally picking up a pet cat along the way. But his friendship with husband-wife folk act Jim and Jean (Timberlake and Mulligan) is strained when Jean tells Llewyn she's pregnant and doesn't want to run the risk that hit might be his. Scrounging for cash, he takes a road trip to Chicago with a pair of nutcases (Hedlund and Goodman) and considers re-enlisting in the Merchant Marines.

Along this journey, the Coens immerse us in wonderfully evocative folk music (produced by T Bone Burnett), and each strained situation is counter-balanced by Llewyn's sardonic quick wit. Which is what gets him in trouble most of the time. There are running gags (Llewyn doesn't have a winter coat) and a couple of big surprises along the way, plus a parade of hilarious side characters who have their own issues.

Surrounded by blustering idiots, life feels pretty exhausting for Llewyn, who just needs a break. Isaac is adorable in the role, a guy we can't help but like both for his raw talent and his way of cutting through rubbish to poke fun at what's actually going on. Standouts from the supporting cast include Mulligan's bitter Jean, Goodman's aggressively rude gentleman and Sands in an amusingly ridiculous role as a clean-cut soldier-boy crooner. But the film is stolen by the cats.

Meanwhile, the plot ambles around without much momentum, as characters come and go, bringing things to a screeching halt before Llewyn brushes himself off for the next scenario. This makes the movie feel like a series of random events strung together by a young musician at a make-or-break point in his career. But the music helps connect everything, and even if Llewyn realises that he might not actually be going anywhere, that's no reason to stop living.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 13.Oct.13 lff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Inside Llewyn Davis Kallie Wilbourn, Las Vegas, NM: 5/5 "Llewyn doesn't make nice with people, or express tenderness of any sort. It's as if he has learned to save all that for his music. He puts all the feelings he might have for people and situations into the music he sings and plays but otherwise seems to have given up on his fellow humans. For instance, while performing the old English folk song about the queen and her baby, he's a conduit for pure, gorgeously contained heartbreak. Otherwise, his only tell for those feelings is an occasional helpless, baffled expression. The characters, the crazy road trip, the bleakness - all fit the 1960s scene so well (one reason why the 60s seem like a more honest time, since the world is now a shinier yet worse place, at least for most people). Thanks for another great film, Coens." (31.Mar.14)
© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall