Every weekend, we pick a movie you can watch at home that dovetails with an event from the previous week. Old, new, blockbuster, arthouse: They’re all fair game. What you can count on is a weekend watch that sheds new light on the week that was. The movie of the week for October 9 through 15 is Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and available to digitally rent or stream (for Prime members) on Amazon.
Bob Dylan, American troubadour, won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Wednesday morning. The award sparked debates centering on the question: What is the Nobel Prize in literature even for? And do song lyrics count as literature?
But while Dylan himself has not yet commented on the prize (even though he’s been onstage since then!), others have jumped to point out that he didn’t need it at all. Someone else might have benefited from the bump in recognition more than one of the most famous musicians in history.
I imagine Llewyn Davis, the protagonist of Joel and Ethan Coen’s darkly comic Inside Llewyn Davis, would agree. As played by a pre–Star Wars Oscar Isaac, Llewyn is a hapless, hopeless folk musician who’s wildly talented but prone to getting beat up, a Sisyphus with a guitar and a lousy attitude.
Llewyn is sort of based on Dave Van Ronk, the so-called “mayor of MacDougal Street” who was a fixture on the folk music circuit in the 1960s, right before a certain future Nobel Prize winner came along and dragged the style from Greenwich Village clubs like the Gaslight Cafe — a location in the film — and into the mainstream.
Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Adam Driver also appear in the film as other singers in the folk scene, and John Goodman has a terrifying turn as a cokehead jazzman with whom Llewyn hitches a ride.
The gist of Inside Llewyn Davis is that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, things simply don’t come together the way you think they should, and it sucks. But the joke of Inside Llewyn Davis comes right at the end, when Llewyn has been thrown out of the Gaslight but on his way out hears a very familiar-sounding new singer crooning a song from the stage that sounds an awful lot like one of his own. (Dylan has poached plenty of lyrics.) Llewyn’s version, for the record, is better.
So while you’re congratulating Bob Dylan (or arguing about him), pour yourself a pint and settle in for a couple of hours with Llewyn too. He’s having a bad week.