A drab, and yet darkly comedic film by the Cohen Brothers set in the burgeoning folk-rock scene of 1960s Greenwich Village. Where we follow a very bleak week during a very cold winter, in the life of a young folk singer named Llewyn Davis (Isaac) as he (barely) navigates his way through his deeply depressing life while he gigs out at the local clubs, sleeps on his friends couches, and attempts to make heads or tails out of his everyday existence, while attempting to catch a break and score a recording deal or even a regular paying gig. Before the film opens (which we don’t learn until well into the film), Llewyn’s singing partner has killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge (at first all we know is that they are no longer a duo and Llewyn is upset over it).
As the film starts, Llewyn is finishing off a set at the Gaslight (a local club he frequents) and is told by the owner Pappi (Max Casella) that there is some guy in a suit out back in the alleyway who wants to talk to him. So Llewyn heads out back to find out what is going on, and winds up getting the crap beat out of him because he apparently heckled someone on stage the previous night. From there we follow Llewyn as he awakens alone in the apartment of his older, well-off, upper West Side friends, the Gorfeins. Unfortunately, as he leaves their place, he inadvertently lets their cat out, and (as the apartment door closes and locks behind him), he is forced to take the cat with him to his friend’s, Jim and Jean’s (Timberlake and Mulligan) place in the Village.
The thing we learn mostly about Llewyn is that — while he is an extremely talented singer/songwriter — he is something of a self-centered prick. While at Jim and Jean’s he lights up a cigarette to smoke, and opens the window, allowing the cat to escape. We also learn that he apparently slept with Jill and now she is pregnant, and wants to get rid of the baby (as she isn’t sure if it is Llewyn’s or Jim’s). From there he wanders around the village learning how truly screwed his life is here in NY. Taking up an offer to travel to Chicago, he gets all the way out there to learn that nothing is much better out there, and winds up returning to the village where he winds up playing at the gaslight once again.
Ultimately, the film winds up, where it started, back in the ally with Llewyn getting the crap kicked out of him by the guy at the beginning of the film (only now we get more of an insight into why that occurred). Still, you shouldn’t feel sorry for Llewyn, because (as we’ve already stated), he is something of a self-centered Prick. Watching the film you will be left with the feeling of “When is the story going to start?” only by the end you realize that there really is neither any start nor conclusion to Llewyn’s story as he (because of his self-absorbed, narcissistic ways) stuck in an Mobius loop; doomed to endlessly to repeat his meaningless, soulless existence endlessly against the drab backdrop of other people’s lives all the while struggling Sisyphean-like against a massive array of seemingly insurmountable obstacles — most of which of his own making.
Still, the soundtrack is truly most excellent, so if you can’t make it to the film, by all means, go out and acquire the soundtrack.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.