THE BLOG

Popcorn Preview: Inside Llewyn Davis

12/11/2013 08:33 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Oscar Isaac (Drive), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Justin Timberlake (Love Actually), Ethan Phillips (The Island), Adam Driver (Girls), Stark Sands (Chasing Liberty), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski), Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy), Alex Karpovsky (Girls), Robin Bartlett (Shutter Island), F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus)
Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit, Fargo, A Serious Man)
Light drama | Comedy

The Gaslight 1961: "Hang me, oh hang me," Llewyn sings to a smoke-filled room... "I'll be dead and gone." It's a song he used to perform with Mike. "It was never new, and never get's old. It's a folk song." The audience response isn't enthusiast, but it's respectable. "You were really messed up last night," says Pappi, the owner. "Your friend's outside." Llewyn has no idea who that is. "You had to open your big mouth!" says the "friend." But he's not a friend, and he beats up Llewyn before stomping off. The flashback starts with the red tabby cat that wakes Llewyn up. There's no one home, so Llewyn helps himself to breakfast. Before leaving, he writes a note... "Thanks for the couch. Sorry for the mess last time..." and lets himself out. By accident he also lets out Professor Gorfein's cat and can't let the cat back in. He and the cat get some strange looks on the subway. In the village, he lets himself into 5B... Jim and Jean's apartment... via the fire escape and leaves the cat.

Llewyn's agent, Mel, has no money for him and says it's because he's a solo act now. Llewyn isn't buying it. When he and Mike were a duo act, there records didn't sell either. Back at 5B, Jean is on a rampage... "Explain the cat! No... you can't stay. I'm pregnant." Jim and Jean have another guest, Troy, who's singing at the Gaslight tonight. It's a lackluster performance, but Bud Grossman in Chicago has "expressed an interest." Seems like Llewyn is on everyone's shit list... maybe he should try to get himself to Chicago, too.

Sometimes Llewyn steps in shit and sometimes he creates shit. Surly, it's time for a change of karma. Obviously he functions at a higher level than some others who seem to win praise. The only people who unconditionally admire Llewyn are the Gorfeins... but now there's the issue with the cat. In many ways, Inside Llewyn Davis is a musical remake of A Serious Man. The Coen Brothers seem to have a natural affinity for shaggy dog stories, and they do them so well. While Llewyn meanders from one bungled situation to the next, we're treated to a nice sound track... supervised by T Bone Burnett and mostly performed by Oscar Isaac... a 60s-era nostalgia trip and some laughs. There are musical references to other artists in the pre-Bob Dylan folk scene that many viewers will enjoy. It's not a fast moving story, and if you're waiting for Llewyn to get his act together... it's not that kind of movie. Llewyn is committed to his art, he's got talent that should be obvious to anyone with a brain... but he's knocking around from friend's couch to friend's couch, while people say things like... "I don't see a lot of money here."

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Struggling 60s-era Greenwich Village folk singer just needs one break before... life breaks him

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language)
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Mood: Sober
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Nutshell: Struggling musician
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking

Read more Popcorn Previews at www.popcorndiary.com

You may want to read about other Coen Brother's shaggy-dog stories:

Learn more about the shaggy-dog tradition in storytelling: