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Folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is having a pretty bad week, probably because he's in a movie written by Joel and Ethan Coen. He got beat up in an alley by a stranger, and he recently lost his musical partner. Some of his friends are making a living with music, but his solo record isn't selling. He's sleeping on people's couches. It's cold out, but he doesn't have a coat. He lost a friend's cat. His sister isn't going to loan him any money. Oh, and he might have impregnated his best friend's wife.

Clearly the only thing to do is set off for Chicago to see Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham), a producer who has a copy of his record and is his last real shot at making his passion pay the rent. So he commences hitchhiking and ends up in a car with a washed-up junkie jazz musician (John Goodman) and his brooding beat poet valet (Garrett Hedlund).

Things are not looking up for Llewyn.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a darkly funny film that recreates the texture of the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961, and for those of us who love the Coens' meandering storytelling style, it's a masterpiece. It features some truly outstanding performances, both musical and thespian—particularly from Isaac, who performed the music live, as well as Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, who play Llewyn's sweet-natured best friend Jim and his vitriolic wife Jean (who calls him "King Midas's idiot brother," alongside other choice terms). The Coens collaborated closely with T Bone Burnett, the music producer with whom they worked on O Brother, Where Art Thou (the film's soundtrack also features Marcus Mumford and Punch Brothers). And it looks good, too, thanks to cinematographer ...

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December 2013

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