DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella
Writing Credits:
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

Box Office:
$11 million.
Opening Weekend
$405.411 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$13.072 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.851/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $30.99
Release Date: 3/11/2014

• “Inside Inside Llewyn Davis” Documentary


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 3, 2014)

Set in Greenwich Village circa 1961, Inside Llewyn Davis follows the title character (Oscar Isaac), a folk singer. He used to be part of a duo but now works as a solo artist who struggles to find an audience.

The film shows us a variety of factors that complicate his life beyond his lack of commercial success. Llewyn learns that his ex-girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) is pregnant and the baby might be his, not her current boyfriend Jim’s (Justin Timberlake). Llewyn’s sister Joy (Jeanine Serralles) encourages him to return to his steady gig in the Merchant Marines, but he prefers to pursue his artistic muse. We see developments that occur over a one-week span in terms of Llewyn’s life and career.

Going into Davis, I can’t say I did so with much enthusiasm. A flick about an early 1960s folk singer not named “Bob Dylan” didn’t do much to entice me, and while I respect writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen, I can’t claim I’ve ever been a big fan of their work.

Davis doesn’t change my view, but I think it walks the “good Coen” side of the street. I admit I’m not wild about their more overtly “wacky” efforts, as I think their skewed sensibility can seem forced.

This means I prefer the Coens when they nod toward that tone but don’t wholeheartedly embrace it, and that becomes the case here. Davis clearly comes from the Coen POV, but it never goes down the farcical path some of their work follows. It’s a drama with comedic elements, and the two sides mesh well. The comedy veers toward the self-consciously silly at times, but it never quite gets there, and the movie fares better because of this.

I’ve heard Davis described as a “cold” movie in terms of its tone, and I agree with that. Viewers will probably find it tough to engage in the lead character because he remains fairly caustic and unlikable from start to finish. We see Llewyn go through changes, but these fail to soften him; while we see glimmers of a compassionate human, these remain pretty well buried.

And I’m fine with that. I don’t need every movie I watch to have loveable personalities – the world doesn’t work that way, so I’m happy to watch something with a lead who lacks especially likable traits.

It’s not like Davis goes out of its way to make Llewyn a jerk, though. While he comes across as generally unpleasant, the movie depicts him in a realistic manner, as we sense that his behaviors largely result from his struggles. The tale doesn’t spoonfeed us backstory, but we get enough dollops to reveal a character who seems to have experienced plenty of setbacks and disappointments. Add to that the harsh nature of the music business as well as the myopia required to succeed and we can buy into Llewyn’s harshness.

To his credit, Isaac does nothing to soften the character’s rough edges. He doesn’t go out of his way to compound Llewyn’s flaws, but he doesn’t back away from the nastiness, either. Isaac brings us a believable, compelling take on a difficult role.

The other actors do well, too, though I admit Mulligan’s less than convincing American accent can be a distraction. Still, she brings a certain kind of heart to a character who could’ve been one-dimensional, and all the other performers add spark to their parts as well.

Inside Llewyn Davis gives us a difficult piece, as it comes with an unlikable lead and little actual plot. Nonetheless, it delivers a consistently involving drama about a specific place and time.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Inside Llewyn Davis appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not great, the image was mostly fine given the limitations of SD-DVD.

Sharpness varied a bit. Much of the movie came across as reasonably defined and concise, but a few exceptions occurred, as the film occasionally looked somewhat soft and tentative. Overall definition was positive, though. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. No problems with source flaws caused distractions, as the movie remained free from defects.

With a subdued palette at work, not many colors cropped up in Davis. The movie tended toward a drab gray/green tint; within those parameters, the colors were decent. Blacks remained acceptably dense, and shadows were clear and smooth. This was a “B” presentation.

One wouldn’t expect slam-bang audio from a folk music-oriented character piece like Davis, and the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack remained appropriately subdued. As expected, music dominated, so the many songs showed good stereo spread and involvement.

Otherwise, this remained a low-key mix. Effects cropped up in a few circumstances such as streets and subways, and they added a bit of minor pep at times. These instances didn’t bring a lot of pizzazz to the package, though, as the track stayed appropriately laid-back much of the time.

Audio quality seemed pleasing. Dialogue came across as natural and concise, and effects showed good accuracy. As noted, those elements didn’t have much to do, but they seemed realistic. Music was warm and full as well. This was an unambitious but satisfactory soundtrack.

Only one extra appears here: a documentary called Inside Inside Llewyn Davis. It runs 42 minutes, 42 seconds and includes comments from writers/producers/director Ethan and Joel Coen, Mayor of MacDougal Street author Elijah Wald, executive music producer T-Bone Burnett, costume designer Mary Zophres, associate music producer Marcus Mumford, musician Chris Thile, production designer Jess Gonchor, director of photography Bruno Delbonnel and actors Oscar Isaac, John Goodman, Stark Sands, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham and Garrett Hedlund.

The show looks at the movie’s origins and inspirations, period elements, music, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes and visual design, and some other areas. “Inside” doesn’t bring us an exhaustive view of the production, but it covers the major topics well. We find a nice overview of the relevant areas and learn a reasonable amount along the way.

In terms of the Coen brothers filmography, expect Inside Llewyn Davis to be more in the vein of A Serious Man than The Big Lebowski. While it comes with comedic elements, it takes a more dramatic, character-based path and it does well in that regard, as it delivers a vivid – though chilly – portrait. The DVD gives us generally good picture and audio along with an interesting documentary. Davis isn’t much of a crowd-pleaser but I think it’s a solid film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5454 Stars Number of Votes: 11
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main