Posted by: greercn | January 28, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis

Is artistic integrity bound to result in failure? That’s the question at the heart of this movie, as asked without judgement by the Coen brothers.

Dashes of “O Brother”, “Fargo” and “Raising Arizona” go into this look at a brief time in a folk singer/songwriter’s life in 1961. Llewyn is not a charming man. He surfs between sofas, hurting those who help him and sneering at his few allies.

At the Gate of Horn in Chicago – surely a reference to Homer (not Simpson) – he hears home truths and takes notice. Even then, he doesn’t change his approach and the viewer is left wondering whether Llewyn is bound to keep making bad decisions.

Scenes in “Llewyn” show him trudging in deep snow, offering a metaphor for his career.

Is it a good movie? It certainly engaged my emotions and the wry laughs were seized on by the Stratford East Picturehouse audience. I enjoyed the 105 minutes I spent watching this and my attention didn’t wander.

But there’s an aged weariness at the centre of this as though it’s meant to show the impact of personal and professional failure over a long time. Most of the leads are too young to experience this, surely? The growing folk scene in Greenwich village and Chicago must have been a lot more fun that “Llewyn” offers.

Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake all are great as are John Goodman and F. Murray Abraham. Stark Sands, Garrett Hedlund and Adam Driver have superb scenes and show contrasting life choices to Llewyn’s.

There’s a fascinating sub-plot about cute cats, which offers red herrings and shaggy dog tales, in equal measures.

It’s full of excellent writing, super scenes and always seems to hint at deeper meanings. Yet it remains unsatisfying because there is so little joy in anyone.

Pessimists will love this as it confirms that world view. The moment when Bob Dylan arrives on the scene is truly magical. All the music is good and effective.

Like all the Coen films, it will reward a second viewing. It’s a very good movie that entertains and puzzles the viewer, but it may just miss the mark of greatness by lacking a real heart.

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Responses

  1. Nice review Greer. Took me awhile to really fall for this movie’s charm, but hey, I’m glad it eventually did work its spell on me. May not be the best thing the Coen’s have ever done, but then again, that’s pretty hard to decipher as is.

  2. We loved it. I spent years in folk clubs in the ’60s, they did tend to be more joyful places than these. Afterwards we agreed it wasn’t a great film but we’ll definitely watch it again. We saw it at an afternoon performance and coming out into a blindingly sunny afternoon was weird. I think the cat(s) should be given an award.

    • That cat is amazing. I think one problem with the movie is that being in those folk clubs at that time must have been more joyful rather than the sombre tone maintained here.

  3. I still need to see this one. I cannot agree or disagree, but I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    • Thank you! I have issues with some of the choices made in movies made by the Coens, but this movie feels accessible and enjoyable.


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