“If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song,” said Llewyn Davis.
This is 1961 in Greenwich Village folk scene and our man is Llewyn Davis (Óscar Isaac), a good-yet-hapless folk singer. Llewyn is a trouble—he doesn’t even know what to write in his “address” form ’cause he constantly flees from one friend’s couch to another’s. Yet, that’s not all; he’s also selfish, irresponsible, and wretched; even his not-so-ex girlfriend, Jean (Carey Mulligan) calls him “Midas’ little brother.” Inside Llewyn Davis is a titular tale that journeys through a week of his desperate life.
Llewyn Davis is exactly Joel & Ethan Coen’ typical man—one who always deals with misery and self-loathe. Since the opening scene, when he sings “Hang Me, O Hang Me” from the very beginning to the entirety end, I can see that he’s talented (and Isaac is as talented). Yet, a moment after the encore, I know right away that he won’t bear being talented until he proves it by ruining everything.
As the film progresses, all I can see is an unlikable protagonist wearing trouble on his shoulder. Men come and go—Jean secretly brings him trouble, her boyfriend Jim (Justin Timberlake) is no help, Gorfein (Ethan Philips) and his family is proven just the same, and even John Goodman’s bluesman whose car is hitchhiked by Llewyn turns out becoming another menace. Truly, poor Llewyn is fortuneless, but his journey keeps us interested, although, I believe, there’s no guarantee that it’ll end up satisfyingly. Inside Llewyn Davis is indeed vague until I find out that the whole film is only a set of Ulysses the Cat movie (if you know what I mean).
As usual, The Coen Brother never fail their own film—as they make it so neat and so solid that we feel empathy to the protagonists. Moreover, they’re devoted to their faith in not making it a musical film but rather a “music” film; they adorn the whole film with original folk songs, like “Hang Me, O Hang Me“, “500 Miles” and not to miss “Please, Mr. Kennedy” that, like any song in this film, is sung entirely by Mr. Timberlake and Isaac. With compelling recreation of the 60s folk scene and fluorescent coruscation, Inside Llewyn Davis is a bitter-sweet sour.
Certainly, this film is not a boring one, but frankly saying, it’s an exhausting one. It’s quite strange and, seems like, having no goal nor conclusion; yet, beneath all of it, it turns to be a sensible film that grips into your back. As it crawls into your mind, you’ll have been remembered not only the melodies but the flavors of being “inside” Llewyn Davis.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Drama, Music Running Time: 104 mins. Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Production Co.: CBS Films, StudioCanal, ACE Starred by: Óscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Ethan Philips, Garrett Hedlund