Inside Llewyn Davis review by George Hooper - Cinema Paradiso
The title of the latest Coen brothers film suggests that learning everything about Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is something worth taking the time to do. Not only is he a good folk singer but he has a sharp wit and an ability to shrug off rejection. These are admirable qualities but Llewyn is not an admirable person, far from it. He is kurt, abrasive, incapable of accepting criticism but more than willing to fling it out at everyone else and a complete social reject. However it’s oddly compelling watching a train wreck like Llewyn try and sort his life out, even if you know he might just shrug it off in favour of yet another distasteful and appalling act.
The film follows Llewyn Davis as he has to endure a harsh winter on the streets of New York City as he tries to reignite his singing career following the death of his partner. However when he finds out his friends girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) is pregnant and it could be his he is sent into a tailspin as he tries to become accountable to people other than himself sending him on a trip across country in search of fame, fortune and the opportunity to grow up.
Although the Coen’s have crafted stories around unlikable characters before Llewyn is a whole new barrel of fish, a character with no discernible baggage, no tragic story, no unfortunate upbringing, he’s just caustic because of his own self involvement. He may be a great musician and occasionally have the right thought about the trash people produce as music but it doesn’t save him and Oscar Isaac plays into it perfectly. He understands the man and his many many flaws but he also gets how free he is.
The charm in the film is that everyone in it is free, free to do what they want with who they want and free to express themselves however they see fit. Not only does Llewyn use his love of music as a way to get away with saying just about anything but so does Roland (John Goodman), a jazz musician he meets on his travels. They see it as a release of sorts and while they galavant and do things we would deem inappropriate, Jean hides behind her music, uses it as a way to progress her ideal of the perfect life. Her music has trapped her in her many lies with Mulligan bringing Jean’s self righteous indignation to the surface in a fun and oftentimes hilarious fashion.
In the end you may feel cheated by the film but trying to figure out if Llewyn learnt anything and grew from the experience is part of the fun of not knowing and its always fun for a film to throw the audience for a loop, even in its final moments and nobody does it better than the Coen’s. The film may follow a mess but at least he’s an entertaining mess.