Set in 1961 Greenwich Village, this one’s about the starving artist who didn’t’ make it.
Julliard-trained Oscar Isaac (the guy in the cabin in “The Bourne Legacy”) is astounding as Llewyn Davis and is totally believable as a sad sack, penniless folksinger trying to make it on the burgeoning New York City folk music scene. Like “O Brother, Where Art Thou” 13 years ago, the Coen brothers make this all about the music with the great T Bone Burnett supervising (he was also integral to “O Brother Where Art Thou”) and Mumford and Son’s Marcus Mumford providing the vocals for Davis’ late superior singing partner. The dedication to the music is frustrating at times, because full versions of unfamiliar songs are played. But that what makes the Coen brothers who they are: uncompromising visionaries. Like the Coen brothers, Llewyn Davis is uncomprising too and that, in large part, is what holds him down. You want to smack him sometimes over his poor choices and refusal to bend at all. It’s hard to like Llewyn Davis , but the Coen brothers make you “get” him.
Carey Mulligan (Marcus Mumford’s real-life wife) plays Davis’s sometime-love in the early days of free love, although she’s married to her singing partner, played by Justin Timberlake.
Coen brothers perennial favorite John Goodman positively steals every scene he’s in as a junkie jazz artist Davis meets along the way. What a treasure Goodman is!!
The Coen brothers nail it as a period piece and infuse their bittersweet story with their trademark ironic/sarcastic humor. Some say this an homage to Dave Van Ronk. Darkly shot against the backdrop of a relentless New York City winter, this is a very authentic look at a fleeting , quickly changing time in music . It’s a love letter to the folk music scene of New York City.