Is anyone surprised that Ethan and Joel Coen’s submission to the 2013 Cannes Film Festival went flying “out of the park,” as The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said it? With Best Picture nominations for three out of the last four features in which the brothers have been in the director’s chair, including a win for 2007’s No Country For Old Men, Coen Brothers are about as close as it comes to a sure thing in terms of critical and commercial success.
With Inside Llewyn Davis the Coen Brothers sought to resurrect the pre- Bob Dylan atmosphere of the late 1950’s and early 60’s folk scene in the coffee shops of Greenwich Village, New York. Real life folk legend Dave Van Ronk’s unfinished memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, was the inspiration for the film. Oscar Isaac’s (Drive) break-out performance as the caustic, frustrated singer Llewyn Davis is grabbing both the spotlight and Oscar predictions as the film tops the lists for the Palme D’Or.
As a classically trained guitarist, Oscar Isaac appears perfectly equipped to play Davis. “Before we found Oscar,” said Joel Coen, “we were really screwed. We needed an actor who could bring in a strong emotional performance and who could also sing and play guitar.” T-Bone Burnett, the music producer on the film, (and on Brother, Where For Art Thou), agreed. “The odds of finding Oscar Isaac was one in 17 million,” said Burnett.
‘The movie really doesn’t have a plot, said Joel Coen. ‘It’s a story about a struggling artist, teetering on success, who is eclipsed by the poetry and abstract thinking of Bob Dylan’.
Llewyn has a tense relationship with a successful folk singing duo, played by a cheesy Justin Timberlake and a furious, expletive spewing, Carey Mulligan. The film also stars John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund.
The Coen brothers won the Palme d’Or in 1991, for Barton Fink, with John Turturro. The 1991 jury was presided over by Roman Polanski. This year’s president is Steven Spielberg.
CBS Films will give Inside Llewyn Davis a limited release December 6, 2013 before expanding wide on December 20.