Inside Llewyn Davis
Joel and Ethan Coen have made bleaker films than Inside Llewyn Davis, but never anything this melancholy. Set in a slightly fablelike version of the 1961 Greenwich Village folk scene, Inside Llewyn Davis is inspired by early Bob Dylan, yet exudes the Coens' usual oddball comedic sensibility and stylistic verve. Llewyn is played by Oscar Isaac, who naturally inhabits the role in a way actors rarely do in the Coens' films. More than anything, this gorgeous movie shows the Coens' unique ability to visualize a particular time and place without resorting to cheap nostalgia. Given the abundance of T-Bone Burnett songs, many will compare this to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but the real ancestor in the Coen catalog is their excellent 1991 film Barton Fink. That film showed us “the life of the mind”, while Inside Llewyn Davis presents us the lifelessness of a defeated heart.