The Irish Mail on Sunday
Back in the midSixties, a reporter asked Bob Dylan what his songs were about. ‘ Oh,’ said Dylan, ‘some are about four minutes, some are about five, and some are about 11.’ The Coen brothers would surely answer in similar style if you were to quiz them on the meaning of the brilliant, baffling
their shaggy dog movie about the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961, in which the young Dylan puts in an appearance.
Actually it’s more of a shaggy cat movie. Llewyn (Oscar Isaac), a struggling singer-songwriter desperate for a record deal, spends most of what passes for the story tracking down a friend’s errant ginger tom. Only at the movie’s end does he learn that the cat is named after James Joyce’s similarly inscrutable novel
But how to explain Ulysses’s habit of strutting the same Manhattan alleys as Audrey Hepburn’s cat did in
Or why the crippled junkie jazz player Roland Turner (a delightfully gruff John Goodman) is a dead-ringer for Orson Welles in
Not that this is a movie just for buffs. For one thing, there are star turns to cherish from Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and, best of all, F Murray Abraham as a terrifyingly clear-eyed record producer. And then there are the songs that Llewyn and his rivals sing. T Bone Burnett’s new arrangements of folk standards make for the soundtrack of the year. Even after two viewings I can’t tell you what
is about. But I can say that like the Coen brothers’ masterpiece, (newly released on Blu-ray), it’s about perfect.
Not so Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts give barn-storming performances in this version of Tracy Letts’s hit Broadway play about a dingbat Serthern-frard matriarch. But director John Wells is too faithful to his source. His movie has stagefright, and those grandstanding emotions that fill a theatre are an embarrassment on your sofa.
A misconceived fantasy actioner that owes less to Mary Shelley than it does to every other CGI flick in existence,
left I bored.