Year of Release: 2013
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, Justin Timberlake
Running Time: 105 minutes
Genre: Drama, dark comedy, period, music
Greenwich Village, New York City, the winter of 1961: The film charts a week in the life of struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis (Isaac), sleeping wherever anyone will give him a couch for the night, constantly hustling for low-paying gigs or session work and always hoping for an elusive big break.
This is a beautifully dark comedy, following one very bad week for Llewyn Davis, virtually plotless, the film moves from incident to incident as Davis' troubles mount up, although many of them are self-inflicted. Filmed in muted colours it captures a particular moment in American music, of the folk scene just prior to the emergence of Bob Dylan. It features a fantastic performance from Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis who could easily just be a complete prick. While Davis is not a particularly likable character, his obnoxious personality alienating friends and strangers alike, he is never unsympathetic, with Isaac being able to convey so much despair and frustration with just a look. Also the fact that Davis is a good singer, and he could possible make it big if he could get the breaks, but he knows that his break probably will never come, and the fact that often it doesn't matter if someone has talent if they can't catch a break. Isaac is well supported by other great performances, mot notably from Carey Mulligan (as a fellow folk singer who looks like an angel and sings very sweetly but has a lot of anger which she is not shy about expressing) and John Goodman (as an obnoxious drug addicted jazz musician). There are a lot of Coen Brothers hallmarks here, with characters being defined by repeated phrases and motifs, and recurring plot elements (such as Llewyn's search for a missing cat, which runs through the film), and it feels almost like a companion piece to A Serious Man (2009), which has a similar theme of life being like a cosmic joke. The film also has one of the best soundtracks of recent years.