From a distance, this feature by Joel and Ethan Coen might resemble the brothers' 1991 farce Barton Fink
: like the earlier movie, it evokes a specific showbiz milieu (Greenwich Village in the early 60s) as it follows an aspiring artist (a down-and-out folkie played by Oscar Isaac) who's based on a real-life figure (singer-guitarist Dave Van Ronk). Yet the broad, black humor of the Coens' early features (Blood Simple
, Raising Arizona
) has ripened over the years into a sadder, more philosophical brand of comedy (A Serious Man
) that puts them in a class with Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch (yeah, you heard me). Their theme here is the same as in Fink
—the fraught relationship between art and commerce—but their key insight is noticeably more mature: a good artist must be in the right place at the right time to succeed, whereas a truly great one makes that time and place his own. With Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, and Justin Timberlake.
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Inside Llewyn Davis is a tale of art and money.