TheDailyBeast.com — The Coen Brothers’ latest film, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ chronicles a singer-songwriter struggling to navigate the early ‘60s Greenwich Village folk scene. And it’s amazing.
The Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis provides an exquisitely rendered portrait of the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, viewed through the eyes of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac)—a couch-surfing singer-songwriter who, when he’s not picking and crooning, uses the bulk of his spare cash to pay for various women’s abortions. One of these women is Jean Berkey (Carey Mulligan) who, along with Llewyn’s milquetoast pal, Jim (Justin Timberlake), make up a schlocky folk duo.
Indeed, Llewyn is a fuck up in every sense—the type of person whose incredible talent is overwhelmed by his combative personality. He doesn’t speak to his merchant-marine father, has run afoul of his sister, and has clearly shit the bed with the Berkey’s, where he usually crashes. His last friend in the world is Mitch Gorfein, an academic living on the Upper West Side—that is, until he accidentally makes off with the family cat. Llewyn used to be in a singing duo that went by the stage name Tiplin & Davis, but his partner, Mike, committed suicide. Now, since his debut solo album has failed to catch on, he barely scrapes by performing gigs at the Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village.
With nowhere left to turn and only 200 bucks to his name, Llewyn embarks on a road trip to Chicago with two oddball travel companions, played by John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund, with the hope of winning over music manager Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham), and defibrillating his musical career.
The film marks the 16th feature by the directing duo of Joel and Ethan Coen—or the Coen brothers—and is loosely based on the life of former folk musician Dave Van Ronk. It’s a low-key affair boasting stellar acting; eye-catching lensing by Jean-Pierre Jeunet collaborator Bruno Delbonnel; wonderful music, courtesy of producers T-Bone Burnett, who’d previously collaborated with the Cohen’s on O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Marcus Mumford, of Mumford & Sons fame; and the duo’s signature brand of dark humor. It’s like Fargo, if you replace the killing with strumming. The biggest surprise here, though, is Isaac, who fully embodies the tormented Llewyn. Even though the character is a complete pain in the ass, you root for him to succeed, which is a testament to Isaac’s mesmerizing performance. The actor even performed all the songs he plays in the film in real time.
In a post-screening Q&A following the film’s showing at the Telluride Film Festival, the Coen brothers, Isaac, and Burnett discussed their folk-music movie gem, which will be released by CBS Films on Dec. 6. Below are some highlights.