Joel & Ethan Coen returned to the familiar character development tales they take us on since True Grit back in 2010. Last year out came Inside Llewyn Davis which is loosely based on a famous folk singer from New York’s Greenwich Village, but I won’t become bogged down in that loose plot basis, the Coens have only drawn similarities on experience in Greenwich Village.
The Coen Brothers have always delved into strong character driven films and Inside Llewyn Davis is no different as we closely follow the story of (Yes, you guessed it!) Llewyn Davis for a week as he crashes on couches of disillusioned friends, other people in the music business and fans of his former duo, Timlin & Davis (However the Timlin of the group committed suicide, making the twosome, a solo act).
Now with Coen Brother films, their main basis have been following a character over a period of time, usually a couple of days (The Big Lebowski, True Grit, No Country For Old Men, A Serious Man) and usually is more about getting to know the character rather than focusing on visuals and plot, because more often than not Coen films go forward without a strong, sought out plot, which is always signified by the endings (I found anyway).
First thing first is that you hear Oscar Isaac performing one of Llewyn Davis’ songs. Immediately after he performs, he is outside getting seven shades knocked outta him. One thing we do learn about Llewyn Davis is that is bit of a shithead. Which is strange as most of the leads in Coen films are likeable characters, where as you start to despise Llewyn for sleeping with his friends girlfriend (Carey Mulligan), then asking said friend (Justin Timberlake) for money so he abort his child (even though it could possibly be his friends), taking his friends for granted and the arrogance that surges through his body.
As I mentioned that Oscar Isaac is performing the song, majority of the soundtrack is performed by the cast of Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake with the additional help of Marcus Mumford. This idea I did enjoy to a large factor, because I hadn’t known Oscar Isaac can perform, but to delve into Dave Van Ronk’s works from Inside Dave Van Ronk (which the film draws inspiration from) and perform his own songs to that tune is amazing to see. It’s different rather than finding a famous folk singer and have them perform the songs instead.
Coupled with the sullen, blueygreen-screened movie, the film gives off quite depressing feelings considering Llewyn’s situation. The overtone of the blue and coldness echoes the loneliness that Llewyn sports when he walking around a cold Greenwich Village with a cat as a companion. The inclusion (or not in this case) of the cast echoes this of Llewyn, leaving notes after crashing on couches instead of sticking around to say bye and the jealously and ridicule he delivers to others at The Gaslight (the favoured bar for the folk singers in Greenwich) which gets him into trouble more often than not.
Although I mentioned that Llewyn is not a likeable person, following him as he tries to find his own in Chicago following a half-arsed attempt at performing in front of a big wig, you start to feel sorry for him. Especially as he tries to figure something and do something worthwhile even that doesn’t happen for him. The hand he gets dealt is not a great one.
Something I have figured out when reading other reviews and speaking to others about Inside Llewyn Davis’ is that majority of people are stating it’s their favourite and close to be the Coen’s best yet. To a certain extent I’d definitely agree, as it is familiar, but I found something different. The overtone of melancholy that resonates throughout the film is something not done, looking at A Serious Man although the man has lost his wife to a neighbour, he still discovers himself, whereas Llewyn simply carries on being a shithead and looks depressed throughout. That being said, the film is very enjoyable and I constantly find myself wanting to rewatch it, time permitting or not.
4/5 (Five for Coen Brother fans)