Inside Llewyn Davis
|Inside Llewyn Davis|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Coen
|Written by||Joel Coen
|Distributed by||CBS Films
|Running time||105 minutes|
Inside Llewyn Davis is a 2013 American comedy-drama film written, directed and edited by Joel and Ethan Coen. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, and John Goodman, and was produced by Scott Rudin, Ethan and Joel Coen. T Bone Burnett was the executive music producer. The film is about one week in the life of a singer who is active in New York's folk music scene in 1961. Although Llewyn Davis is a fictional character, the story was partly inspired by the autobiography of folk singer Dave Van Ronk. Most of the folk songs performed in the film are sung in full and recorded live.
The film won the Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where it screened on May 19, 2013. It received a limited release in the United States on December 6, 2013, and was given a wide release on January 10, 2014. It received critical acclaim and was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing, the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, and two other nominations.
In February 1961, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a struggling folk singer in New York City's Greenwich Village. His musical partner, Mike Timlin, has committed suicide; his recent solo album Inside Llewyn Davis is not selling; he has no money and is sleeping on the couches of friends and acquaintances.
After performing in the Gaslight Cafe, Llewyn is beaten up by a shadowy suited man for heckling the previous night. He sleeps at the apartment of his older friends, the Gorfeins. When he leaves the next morning, the Gorfeins' ginger cat escapes. Llewyn takes the cat to the apartment of his friends Jim (Justin Timberlake) and Jean (Carey Mulligan) Berkey. Jean tells him she is pregnant, and fearing that Llewyn may be the father, asks him to pay for an abortion. After he sleeps on their couch, the Gorfeins' cat escapes again.
On Jim's invitation, Llewyn, as part of the "John Glenn Singers", records a novelty song with Jim and Al Cody (Adam Driver). Needing money immediately, Llewyn agrees to $200 with no royalties. At the gynecologist's office, Llewyn sets up Jean's appointment and discovers that a previous girlfriend, whose abortion he also paid for, decided to keep the baby and move to Akron without telling him.
Llewyn and Jean argue about his lack of direction. He spots what he believes to be the Gorfeins' cat and returns it that evening. Asked to play after dinner, he reluctantly performs "Fare Thee Well", a song he had recorded with his deceased partner Mike. When Mrs. Gorfein starts to sing Mike's harmony, Llewyn snaps. Mrs. Gorfein leaves the table crying, then returns with the cat, having realized that it is not theirs. Llewyn leaves with the cat.
Llewyn rides with two musicians driving to Chicago: the laconic beat poet Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund) and the odious jazz musician Roland Turner (John Goodman). At a roadside restaurant, Roland collapses from a heroin overdose. The three stop on the side of the highway to rest. When a police officer tells them to move on, Johnny resists and is arrested. Without the keys, Llewyn abandons the car, leaving the cat and the unconscious Roland behind. In Chicago, Llewyn auditions for Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham). Grossman says Llewyn is not suited to be a solo performer but suggests he might incorporate him in a new trio he is forming. Llewyn rejects the offer and hitchhikes back to New York. Driving, he hits what he fears may be the same cat.
In New York, he pays $148 in back dues to rejoin the merchant marine union, and visits his ailing father. Llewyn searches for his seaman's license so he can ship out with the merchant marines, but his sister has thrown it out. At the Gaslight, Pappi claims he had sex with Jean. Llewyn becomes upset (presumably at feeling he was swindled by Jean for abortion money) and heckles a woman as she performs. He goes to the Gorfeins' apartment, where they graciously welcome him. He is amazed to see that their actual cat, named Ulysses, has found his way home.
The next day, Llewyn performs at the Gaslight. Pappi teases him about his heckling the previous evening and tells him that a friend is waiting outside. As Llewyn leaves the building, a young and unknown Bob Dylan takes the stage and begins to sing. Behind the Gaslight, Llewyn is beaten by a shadowy suited man for heckling the previous night's performer, his wife.
- Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis
- Carey Mulligan as Jean Berkey
- John Goodman as Roland Turner
- Garrett Hedlund as Johnny Five
- Justin Timberlake as Jim Berkey
- F. Murray Abraham as Bud Grossman
- Stark Sands as Troy Nelson
- Jeanine Serralles as Joy
- Adam Driver as Al Cody
- Ethan Phillips as Mitch Gorfein
- Alex Karpovsky as Marty Green
- Max Casella as Pappi Corsicato
- Chris Eldridge as Mike Timlin
- Benjamin Pike as young Bob Dylan
Set in 1961, Inside Llewyn Davis was inspired by the cultural disconnection within a New York–based music scene where the songs seemed to come from all parts of the United States except New York, but whose performers included Brooklyn-born Dave Van Ronk and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Well before writing the script, the Coens began with a single premise: suppose Van Ronk got beat up outside of Gerde's Folk City in the Village. The filmmakers employed that idea in the opening scenes, then periodically returned to the project over the next couple of years to expand the story around a fictional character. One source for the film was Van Ronk's posthumously published (2005) memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street. According to the book's co-author, Elijah Wald, the Coens mined the work "for local color and a few scenes." The character is a composite of Van Ronk, Elliot, and other performers from the New York boroughs who performed in the Village at that time. Joel Coen remarked that "the film doesn't really have a plot. That concerned us at one point; that's why we threw the cat in."
Shooting was complicated by an early New York spring, which interfered with the bleak winter atmosphere that prevails throughout the film, and by the difficulty of filming several cats, who, unlike dogs, ignore the desires of filmmakers. On the advice of an animal trainer, the Coens put out a casting call for an orange tabby cat, which is sufficiently common that several cats would be available to play one part. Individual cats were then selected for each scene based on what they were predisposed to do on their own.
Producer Scott Rudin, who worked with the Coens on True Grit and No Country for Old Men, collaborated on the project. StudioCanal helped finance it without an American distributor in place. "After shooting in New York City and elsewhere last year...the brothers finished the movie at their own pace", wrote Michael Cieply in a January 2013 The New York Times interview with Joel Coen ahead of a private, pre-Grammys screening in Los Angeles. "They could have rushed it into the Oscar season but didn’t." On February 19, CBS Films announced it had picked up the U.S. domestic distribution rights for about $4 million. StudioCanal has rights to international distribution and foreign sales.
Dave Van Ronk's music served as a starting point for the Coens as they wrote the script, and many of the songs first designated for the film were those he had recorded. Van Ronk co-author Elijah Wald said that the character of Llewyn Davis "is not at all Dave, but the music is.” (The cover of Davis's solo album, Inside Llewyn Davis, resembles that of Inside Dave Van Ronk. Both feature the artist in a doorway, wearing a tweed jacket and smoking a cigarette.) Other songs emerged in conversations between the Coens and T-Bone Burnett, who produced the music in association with Marcus Mumford. Burnett previously worked with the Coens on the music and soundtrack for The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the latter of which sold about 8 million copies in the United States. The Coens viewed the music in the Llewyn Davis as a direct descendant of the music in O Brother.
The humorous novelty song "Please Mr. Kennedy", a plea from a reluctant astronaut, appears to be a fourth generation derivative of the 1960 song "Mr. Custer", also known as "Please Mr. Custer", about the Battle of the Little Bighorn, sung by Larry Verne and written by Al DeLory, Fred Darian, and Joseph Van Winkle. A Tamla-Motown single followed in 1961: "Please Mr. Kennedy (I Don't Want to Go)", a plea from a reluctant Vietnam War draftee, sung by Mickey Woods and credited to Berry Gordy, Loucye Wakefield and Ronald Wakefield. In 1962 using a similar theme, The Goldcoast Singers recorded "Please Mr. Kennedy" on its Here They Are album, with writing credits to Ed Rush and George Cromarty. The Llewyn Davis version credits Rush, Cromarty, Burnett, Timberlake, and the Coens.
Isaac, Timberlake, Mulligan, Driver and others performed the music live. The exception was "The Auld Triangle", which was lip-synced, with Timberlake singing bass. (Timberlake's vocal range was on display in the film. Critic Janet Maslin, listening to a soundtrack recording, confused Timberlake's voice with Mulligan's, which she thought resembled that of Mary Travers.)
Inside Llewyn Davis had its worldwide premiere on May 19, 2013 at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The film then screened at film festivals, including the New York Film Festival in September, the November 14 close of the 2013 AFI Film Festival, and Torino Film Festival 2013, also in November.
The film had a limited release in the United States on December 6, 2013, where it played in Los Angeles and New York. It opened in 133 additional theaters on December 20 and opened wide on January 10, 2014.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 94% Certified Fresh based on 230 reviews, with an average score of 8.5/10. The site's consensus states: "Smart, funny, and profoundly melancholy, Inside Llewyn Davis finds the Coen brothers in fine form." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 based on reviews from critics, the film has a score of 92 (indicating "universal acclaim") based on 47 reviews.
Writing for The Village Voice, Alan Scherstuhl praised the Coen brothers' film: "While often funny and alive with winning performances, Inside Llewyn Davis finds the brothers in a dark mood, exploring the near-inevitable disappointment that faces artists too sincere to compromise--disappointments that the Coens, to their credit, have made a career out of dodging. The result is their most affecting film since the masterful A Serious Man." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "an outstanding fictional take on the early 1960s folk music scene," praising the "fresh, resonant folk soundtrack" and Oscar Isaac's performance that "deftly manages the task of making Llewyn compulsively watchable."
Folk singers, however, have criticized the movie for misrepresenting the friendliness of the Village folk scene of the time. Terri Thal, Dave Van Ronk's ex-wife, said, "I didn't expect it to be almost unrecognizable as the folk-music world of the early 1960s." Suzanne Vega said "I feel they took a vibrant, crackling, competitive, romantic, communal, crazy, drunken, brawling scene and crumpled it into a slow brown sad movie." The movie was also criticized for the fact that, although it was to some extent based on the memoir of Dave Van Ronk, the film portrayed a character very much at odds with the real Van Ronk, usually described as a "nice guy". However, at a press interview before the film was premiered at Cannes, the Coens had stated that the character itself was very much an original creation, and that the music was the major influence they'd drawn from Van Ronk.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Inside Llewyn Davis.|
- Official website
- Inside Llewyn Davis at the Internet Movie Database
- Inside Llewyn Davis at Rotten Tomatoes
- Inside Llewyn Davis at Metacritic