Perhaps the biggest thing to note here is how both visually and tonally, this is unlike anything the directorial siblings have done in their career, for the most part. Almost looking like a faded photograph, the camerawork by Bruno Delbonnel (“Across The Universe,” “Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince”) is pretty remarkable, really lending an authentic, lived-in vibe to the Greenwich Village scene of the ’60s that the Coens are trying to evoke (regular cinematographer Roger Deakins was unavailable as he was shooting “Skyfall”). But standing out tall are the performances.
Loosely based on the life of Dave van Ronk, an influential folk musician who inspired people like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Joni Mitchell, Oscar Isaac really steps it up as a man seemingly trying to find a place in the world for himself and his talent. But it’s truly Carey Mulligan who surprises — we’ve simply never seen her in this kind of part, and she is almost reminiscent of a younger Frances McDormand in her delivery and presence. And she perfectly handles the Coens’ always great dialogue.