Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) is a folk singer. It’s the early 1960’s in Greenwich Village, New York and Llewyn’s trying to scratch out a living with his music. Things had been starting to go well and he’d cut a record with his partner, Mike. But that was short lived and now Llewyn is a starving artist, dossing with friends and trying to keep body and soul together until he gets his big break. Llewyn’s friends are all quickly losing their patience with him as he moves from the sofa at one place to a floor and hopefully a meal at the next. He’s always borrowing money, too – his best friend, Jean (by Carey Mulligan) is sick of his hopeless ways and she’s also his worst critic. She and her boyfriend Jim (by Justin Timberlake) are doing okay at their music, even Troy Nelson (by Stark Sands) and Al Cody (by Adam Driver) are doing alright. But Llewyn just can’t seem to get a break. One day, after an overnight at the Gorfein’s, pet cat Ulysses escapes from their flat and Llewyn spends half the next day chasing the cat until he can return it to the ever-generous and unflappable Mitch Gorfein (by Ethan Phillips) and his doting wife Lillian (by Robin Bartlett). His luck goes from bad to worse when he wears out his welcome with his sister Joy (by Jeanine Serralles) and his useless agent fails him. So he decides to try a new big-time agent Mel Novikoff (by Jerry Grayson) in Chicago and he hitches a ride there with Roland Turner (by John Goodman) and his driver Johnny Five (by Garrett Hedlund). Roland’s a big-shot and spends the next few hundred miles telling Llewyn his endless stories. In Chicago, Llewyn plays for Mr Novikoff and hopes to get a record deal – things can’t get any worse, right?
In this movie, the Coen brothers are back to their wonderful best. Here, the hapless Llewyn Davis just blunders from one possible but insane scenario to the next. All the characters are truly and deliciously Coen-esque and the incidents are presented as only they could portray them. The dead-pan humour is classic Coen and the bizarre personalities just add to the delight of this movie. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s very entertaining. Even if you don’t know at first it’s one of their movies, you will pick up on it once the movie gets going. Good performances abound here – Oscar Isaac is great, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake are funny in their earnestness, John Goodman is outrageous and great and the terrible outcomes of Llewyn’s decisions and hasty actions are just as you’d expect in real life. For their efforts, the Joel and Ethan Coen won the Grand Prix at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival – well done.
Made in 2013. Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.