COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 45min
STARRING: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake
Cool cat: Isaac
There’s no business like the bottom rung of show business, which is where Greenwich Village folk singer Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is barely holding up. New York City in winter 1961 is a bleak place to be without somewhere to live, a steady income and a coat, but that’s how Llewyn is doggedly and unhappily travelling. It’s not that he lacks talent — his soul opens up in his music as nowhere else — but that, to quote furious fellow performer Jean (Mulligan), with whom Llewyn has unwisely had sex, “[E]verything you touch turns to shit !” Jean is also pregnant. Her peaceable crooner husband, Jim (Timberlake), can’t know this, since the baby may not be his. Such is the chaos Llewyn leaves, glumly, in his wake.
The cold seeps through writer-director brothers Joel and Ethan Coen’s wryly punishing, performance-studded odyssey (executive music–produced by T-Bone Burnett) in tones of ash and slate. It’s as much a constant as Llewyn’s pained persistence through a flotilla of obstacles over one, long week. What keeps him on some kind of course — as it does with so many would-be’s — is partly his self-belief and partly having nowhere else he wants to be. That doesn’t sound like a lot. But sometimes it has to be enough.