With 16 feature films as a movie-making dream team, the Coen brothers are patron saints of great American movies, often popping up with a new instant classic exactly when we need one most. But does their latest movie, arriving just in time for awards season, have true grit?
"Inside Llewyn Davis" follows Llewyn (Oscar Isaac), a folk singer coming off a personal tragedy and desperate for his big break. It co-stars Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and an unforgettable orange cat.
Here's what critics are saying about "Inside Llewyn Davis," out Friday (December 6).
Like Any Good Folk Song, It Will Make You Weep
"While I do sometimes get misty-eyed at the movies, it's rare that tears ever start pouring down my face. And when it happens (and, again, it's rare) it most often happens at some point of catharsis — when characters I know and love experience great triumph or tragedy. Why was it, then, that I was bawling at the five-minute mark during Joel and Ethan Coen's 'Inside Llewyn Davis?' The story hadn't started. I didn't even know anyone's name. Was it the cat?" — Jordan Hoffman, film.com
It's A Time Machine, But You Need To Pack A Coat
"Taking place over just a few days, it evokes a fleeting time, place, and vibe: The Village folk scene of the early 1960s, anchored around a few cavelike, no-frills clubs, was changed forever once Bob Dylan set foot on it — he was too explosive for it to contain him. But before that, in the heyday of Dave Van Ronk, a scruffy folk luminary who never became a true star, it was much more intimate. That pre-Dylan world, the setting for Inside Llewyn Davis, may be very small, but Llewyn is lost in it." — Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice
Llewyn May Be A Jerk, But He's A Loveable Jerk
"The catalog of Llewyn's lapses is extensive and fills the spectrum from casual bad manners to epic jerkiness. He makes the hostess (Robin Bartlett) cry at a dinner party in Morningside Heights, swears in front of his young nephew in Queens, heckles other acts at the Gaslight and has a habit of getting women pregnant, including Jean, who is romantically and harmonically attached to a singer named Jim (Justin Timberlake). The only misdeed that seems to trouble Llewyn's conscience at all is letting an orange cat escape from an apartment where he's crashing. It's almost as if he thinks that rescuing the animal will make up for everything else he has done." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
The Movie Looks Great, But It Sounds Even Better
"Once again working with music supervisor T-Bone Burnett, here in collaboration with Marcus Mumford, the Coens give the film a soundtrack that surveys the era, from Llewyn's moving interpretations of traditional songs to the clean-cut, mass-market-ready sounds of Jean And Jim and their ilk. It's one of many touches that fill out the world of the film, which is filled with period detail and shot by Bruno Delbonnel as if through a wistful haze." — Keith Phipps, The Dissolve
It's Pretty Much Just The Best Thing Ever
"Throughout his journey, we increasingly feel that Llewyn is trapped in an unwinnable game of catch-up with fate, and the sense becomes so gnawing that it threatens to take off your leg. An ingenious running joke about a runaway cat hints that a more conventionally heroic narrative may be unfolding elsewhere: meanwhile on-screen, the New York streets look as grey as gravestones, and a chill wind tickles almost every shot. This is instant A-list Coens; enigmatic, exhilarating, irresistible." — Robbie Collin, The Telegraph.