“Inside Llewyn Davis”
Excellent (4 stars)
R for profanity and some sexual references
Running time: 105 minutes
Distributor: CBS Films
It’s Greenwich Village in the middle of the winter of 1961, and Llewyn Davis (Oscar Issac) is so down on his luck that he can’t afford an overcoat, let alone a place to live. The fledgling folksinger’s fortunes have gone into a tailspin ever since the other half of his musical duo committed suicide in spite of the modest success of their debut album, “If We Had Wings.”
Nowadays, Llewyn devotes less time to launching his solo career than looking for the next place to spend the night. For, the feckless freeloader really knows how to wear out his welcome, whether by letting his hosts’ (Ethan Phillips and Robin Bartlett) house cat escape onto the street, or by sleeping with the wife (Carey Mulligan) of a pal (Justin Timberlake) who let him crash on the couch.
The plot thickens when Jean lets Llewyn know she’s pregnant and doesn’t know whether he or her husband is the father. So, while he’s constantly caught up in drama of his own making, other aspiring troubadours, like the young Bob Dylan (Benjamin Pike), are busy making the most of opportunities to impress producers and to cultivate a following at trendy nightclubs.
Written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a genre-bending adventure that’s impossible to pigeonhole. Part-musical, part-comedy, part bittersweet portrait of a lovable loser, the enigmatic masterpiece unfolds over the course of a couple of very eventful weeks in the life of a hopeless slacker who can’t seem to get out of his own way.
The film features such familiar hallmarks of a Coen Bros production as a profusion of quirky characters, a compelling storyline, humorous asides ranging from subtle non-sequiturs to simplistic slapstick, and an original soundtrack by the incomparable T-Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) seamlessly sewn into the painstakingly-recreated period piece.
Yet, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is also refreshingly unique, thanks to an endlessly-inventive script which there’s no reason to anticipate. Instead, just sit back and bask in the glow of a nostalgic cinematic treat best served unspoiled.
Manhattan ’61 revisited!