Watch the First Trailer for the Coen Brothers’ Next Movie

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 24 2013 12:07 PM

Trailer Critic: The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis

Oscar Isaac is Llewyn Davis in Inside Llewyn Davis
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) in Inside Llewyn Davis.

Still from YouTube.

The Coen brothers’ next movie, Inside Llyewn Davis, is loosely based on the life of Dave Van Ronk, but the musician whose spirit hovers over the first trailer is Bob Dylan. That’s his song “Farewell” playing throughout, and the shot above recalls the cover for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, sans Suze Rotolo. Then again, Van Ronk was good friends with Dylan, so perhaps that’s the reason the legend feels near at hand—and the album we see at the end, which gives the movie its title, is borrowed directly from the Van Ronk discography.

In any case, as an on-the-record Coen brothers fanatic, I’m more curious about where this film will fit into their own body of work than just whose career they’ve been most inspired by. With all the music, will this be a spiritual sequel to O Brother, Where Art Thou? Given the presence of Justin Timberlake, I was expecting something similarly comic. So the biggest surprise for me in this trailer is just how melancholy the movie seems. The wintry color palette, the sad Dylan song, all the dialogue about how Llewyn is messing up his life, and, most strikingly, that scary shot of John Goodman’s character knocked unconscious on the floor of a public bathroom—all these things add up to what appears to be a very downbeat take on the early Greenwich Village folk scene.

The cast, unsurprisingly, looks terrific. In addition to Coens’ mainstay Goodman, we get a raven-haired and withering Carey Mulligan, a typically intimidating F. Murray Abraham, and Oscar Isaac in what certainly looks like a breakout lead performance. I hope we get to see more of Timberlake soon—as well as Adam Driver and Alex Karpovsky, two of the best actors on Girls, who are also part of the cast. And I’m curious to learn more about the Garret Hedlund character, who, here at a highway stop and behind the wheel of a car, seems to be reprising his recent turn as Dean Moriarty.

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By the way, if you’re wondering how Davis/Isaac is going to sound when he finally pipes up for Abraham’s record executive, expect very good things. And expect them from this movie, too. No word on a release date just yet.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.