MOVIE REVIEW: The Coens' '60s, folkie flashback

by Stephen Whitty The Star-Ledger - Updated: December 19, 2013 at 10:13 am • Published: December 19, 2013 | 9:50 am 0

"Inside Llewyn Davis" Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman; directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen; 105 minutes; R for strong language, brief violence and substance abuse; Grade:A-

Men of firm decisions. Men who take action. Men who see the world as it is, not as they want it to be, and see what's wrong with it, and confidently stride forward to set it right.

These are not the men of Coen brothers movies.

There are men who think they are those men, but anyone who says he's "got it all figured out" in a Coens picture is invariably wrong. Which brings us to Llewyn Davis.

He's the antihero of "Inside Llewyn Davis" and - like so many Coen brothers heroes - he is sadly mistaken. About a lot of things, in fact, but chief among his blind spots is his profession: folk singer.

It is 1961, you see, and Llewyn doesn't like folk much anymore. His last group broke up, his solo record isn't selling and his only gigs are at pass-the-hat hootenanny nights. But it's not folk music that's out of touch. It's Llewyn, wonderfully played by Oscar Isaac, who's unable to connect to other people, or to his own real pain.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" is, for all its pained smiles, really at heart a tragedy. Because it's about an iconoclast terrified of change, a restless voyager whose odyssey only deposits him exactly back where he started - stuck inside Llewyn Davis.

Stephen Whitty, The Star Ledger

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