A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Inside Llewyn Davis, by filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, is a startlingly affecting drama about 1960s Greenwich Village folk singer Llewyn Davis's struggle to be noticed and to survive. Expect a bleak (but memorable) retelling that includes some intense subject matter (suicide, abortion), plus some drinking and a scene of a possible drug overdose that may be too heavy for younger teens. There's also plenty of swearing, including "---hole" and "f--k," and a bunch of amazing musical performances.
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What's the story?
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is having a bad time. His former musical partner gone, due to a tragic suicide, he's going it alone. Though they were mildly successful as a duo, nobody wants to give him the time of day as a soloist. Meantime, an old lover (Carey Mulligan), who's now dating his best friend (Justin Timberlake), drops some unexpected news, making Llewyn more determined than ever to figure his life out. Llewyn pins his hopes onto an audience with a Chicago nightclub owner and music manager, and he'll make the pilgrimage to the Windy City by hitchhiking with a junkie jazz musician (John Goodman) and his surly sidekick (Garrett Hedlund).
Is it any good?
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is a feat of filmmaking, taking the gentle strains of folk music and revealing it for the revolutionary act that it is. Not just because it has been the soundtrack of many social movements, but of personal ones, too. Oscar Isaac as Llewyn is revelatory, a bone-tired, supremely talented man whose passion for making music is struggling mightily against the whims of the industry and his demons -- one being the loss of his musical partner to suicide. When Isaac sings, we're transported first to the dusky bars of 1960s West Village and, more important, to the jungle of discouragement and confusion he's living in. It's a powerful performance. Supporting him is a great ensemble, some new to the Coen Brothers family (Timberlake, thankfully subdued and nearly holding his own against the others) and some beloved veterans (Goodman).
It's not just Isaac and the cast, though, that makes Inside Llewyn Davis remarkable. The music, with T-Bone Burnett in charge of the soundtrack, takes its rightful place front and center. And the Coens tell the story in a clever, elliptical way that drives home the futility and magic of a time. But it's not all sadness and tears. The Coens' singular humor runs a streak through the entire enterprise. Go see it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the character of Llewyn. What makes him different from other movie heroes? What is the message behind his journey?
How does this movie illuminate the folk music scene of the 1960s? Does it debunk myths in any way?
What do you think of the folk music sung here? How is it different from today's music?
- In theaters: December 6, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: March 11, 2014
- Cast: Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Oscar Isaac
- Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- Studio: CBS Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including some sexual references
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.