I believe it’s safe to say that among fans of the Coen brothers, I’m on an extreme level. As in, one weekend afternoon my brother and I figured out we could quote the first half of The Hudsucker Proxy, and are now sure that we have memorized A Serious Man word for Jewish word. So I know that I’m biased when I say that Inside Llewyn Davis looks like it’ll be one of the absolute best films of the year. Know, though, that however much I like the Coen’s, I’m looking at this as objectively as possible (while still admitting I’ve played The Big Lebowski drinking/smoking game more than once).
But seriously, this movie is going to put many of the Coen’s previous work to shame. For one thing, the cast seems absolutely perfect. Oscar Isaac has the Brooklyn accent down, and he’s got sad, down and out musician eyes. Carey Mulligan may as well be American (she acts better than most of them); she’s got that dark, subtle flare about her. Weirdly enough, Justin Timberlake will be playing Mulligan’s sister and another folk musician, which is odd enough to absolutely work. Garrett Hedlund plays… someone… who hangs around with John Goodman, who just in the trailer was super badass (that voice and those jowls and beard). And then there’s F. Murray Abraham (that glorious bastard). Enough said.
The film, allegedly, is about Llewyn Davis, a folk artist struggling to survive the New York City music scene and cold winter in the 1960s. It takes inspiration from The Mayor of MacDougal Street by Dave Van Ronk, a folk musician who, among other musicians of the time, forms the basis for Davis’ character and tale. Isaac’s character basically has to run a gauntlet of disappointments in the world of music, and after getting to know the Coens’ sensibilities regarding shitty events in one’s life, I have no doubt this particular film will be no exception to a stream of awesome films.
The Coens have a knack for taking failure and turning it into cinematic magic. Add T-Bone Burnett’s hand in scoring the flick (he also did O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and you have yourself one hell of a movie. Also, the actors recorded full versions of the songs featured in the film, and will appear in their entirety right there on screen. Carey Mulligan singing on the big screen: reason alone to see this picture.
My hope is that the Coens take their best subtle tricks from A Serious Man and foist the mighty musical power of O Brother, Where Art Thou? onto it. Like the second film, it looks to be color corrected to look like an old photograph, which is a fantastic touch (it’s like watching a record). And the other hope is that it doesn’t end happily, or really end at all. The Coens’ best films have always ended with no real resolution in sight, and it’d be disappointing if this one ended with us knowing the ultimate fate of Llewyn. I have faith in Joel and Ethan, and there is little doubt in my mind that after seeing it I’ll have nothing but praise for Inside Llewyn Davis.