"Inside Llewyn Davis"

March 2014

Inside Llewyn DavisAn Intimate Portrait of New York's Coffee Houses in 1961

Sony Pictures 42859
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment

Picture Quality

Sound Quality


Set in the Greenwich Village folk-music scene of the early 1960s, Inside Llewyn Davis is a black comedy about the fading coffee houses of the time. There are no clinking glasses and buzzing conversations as in the jazz clubs; everyone at the coffee house is respectful and quiet, saving it all until the applause at the end of a number. At the time the movie takes place, I was in Boston hearing Odetta at the coffee houses there, and I can confirm that the reverential tone of Inside Llewyn Davis is spot on.

This might have been a happier movie, but it's a Coen brothers film, and they chose to sacrifice joy for realism. Not only is the folk scene dying and about to be transformed by Bob Dylan, but the main character is fading as well. Unwilling to embrace change, he's steadfast in his dedication to somber folk ballads. He lives by the mercy of friends and strangers, sleeping on whatever sofa he can beg for. He really is a great singer of the genre, especially as played by Oscar Isaac, who is absolutely terrific as Llewyn.

Inside Llewyn Davis

One thing that sets this intimate movie apart from others involving music is that the performances of songs are complete, with no interruptions for another scene. I found this approach very good, especially considering the talents of Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake (is there anything this talented guy can't do?), Marcus Mumford, and the Punch Brothers.

I wish I had seen this movie in a theater so I could better judge the transfer to Blu-ray. To be sure, it is overall a dark and virtually colorless image that is most often on the screen, and I get that this dismal approach is what the Coen brothers intended. But I still feel it's a little bit undercooked on Blu-ray. The sound is excellent. T Bone Burnett produced the music with loving care and a heck of a lot of talent.

There's only one extra, a "making of" featurette, but it's better than most and spends a lot of time talking about the music and how it was created. In the end, Inside Llewyn Davis is a movie I can admire more than I can love. It should be seen, for sure, but you might want to check your rental options rather than make a purchase.

Be sure to watch for: The middle of the movie turns into a road-trip film when Llewyn hitches a ride with a car that's carrying a portly bluesman in the back seat. That character is brought to vivid life by John Goodman, one of our greatest character actors.

. . . Rad Bennett

More SoundStage! Videos

  • PMC Fact.8 Signature Loudspeaker Review! (Take 2, Ep:11)
  • Which is Better? Elac Navis ARB-51 vs. Focal Shape 65 (Take 2, Ep:10)
  • Amphion for the Home, the Studio, and Billie Eilish - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • The NEW Hegel H95 Integrated Amplifier Review ! (Take 2, Ep:9)
  • Estelon: Loudspeaker Excellence and Originality from Estonia - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Zero-Distortion Amplification: Halcro Out of Hiatus - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Best Active Speaker? Elac Navis ARB-51 Speaker Review (Take 2, Ep:8)
  • Vivid Audio's Inventive and Spectacular S12 Loudspeaker - SoundStage! InSight (August 2020)
  • Qobuz Hi-Res Traction and Younger Listeners, with David Solomon - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier Review (Take 2, Ep:7)
  • Schiit Audio Bifrost 2 DAC Review (Take 2, Ep:6)
  • Vinshine Audio: Kinki Studio, Magico, and More in Singapore - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Focal Shape 65 Active Speaker is a Winner for Both Audiophiles and Studios (Take 2, Ep:5)
  • Audio Research's 50th Anniversary Products, Celebration, and Future - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Get Closer to Your Music with the HEDD Type 07 Active Speaker -- Literally. (Take 2, Ep:4) #AMTfi
  • Back to the
  • Details on the Bowers & Wilkins 700-Series Signature Speakers - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • Totem Acoustic Skylight Speaker Review! Affordable Speakers with a Big Sound (Take 2, Ep:2)
  • Activities at Hi-Fi Super-Retailer Goodwin's High End - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • The Long-Term Investment in a Bryston Amplifier - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • PMC and the Flagship Fenestria Loudspeaker - 2019 SoundStage! Product of the Year Winner (June 2020)
  • Hegel H120 Integrated Amplifier Review. Living With It for the Past 3 Months! (Take 2, Ep:1)