Inside Llewyn Davis, dir/wr. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, st. Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, justin Timberlake, F, Murray Abraham, Adam Driver
The Coen Brothers latest takes on the 1960s New York folk music scene and uses its time of intense creativity as a backdrop against which to frame the story of the titular Llewyn Davis, a deadbeat musician, struggling to pay the rent and be taken seriously as an artist. On top of this, he's misplaced a cat belonging to friends of his whose couch he was crashing on, and Jean (Mulligan), the partner of another friend Jim (Timberlake) has just told him she's expecting his child after a one-off tryst. As is the case with most Coen Brothers movies, the format and subject matter is incredibly divisive. Their scenes are more like individually composed vignettes rather than the connective tissue that holds more traditional narratives together and as such, it can be difficult to sustain a semblance of a cogent through-line. That said, the Sixties folk music - O Brother, Where Art Thou?'s bluegrass direct descendent - provides the film with its numerous anchor points, and, importantly, the movie's much needed emotional tether, and they're notably sung live by the film's actors - notably the rendition of Please, Mr. Kennedy, one of Jim's money-making novelty songs that's memorably performed by the cash-strapped Llewyn and the multi-octaved Al Cody (Driver). Isaac is suitably hangdog as Llewyn, a man who carries on regardless of the odds stacked against him (not least the incessant sweary haranguing he suffers at the hands of Jean). The film says much about the ways in which we process disappointment and forge our own opportunities, but were it not for the music, the film nearly capsizes under the weight of its own melancholy.