Folkin’ Bum Note
I wonder who the target audience for ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (2013) is. It certainly should have been me, as I LOVE the Coen brother’s work. I’ve no blind faith, every creative has peaks and troughs, even pre-peaks, pre-troughs which can be moments of near missed greatness. But we’ll caveat my viewing experience/mood with bad received news moments before the screening. Even still…
It would be tempting to write this short review in the guise of Llewyn’s ‘personality’ or lack of, but I would have to desaturate all the colour out of your screen, and slowly drip water over your head for the reading duration, hopefully not electrocuting you in the process.
I’ll quickly get the crux of my problem with the movie out of the way though. Llewyn is an absolute tosser! A truly horrible selfish twat, bringing nothing but crap to EVERYONE around him, for the entire movie. It’s beautifully put by Carey Mulligan’s character Jean, as Davis being ‘King Midas’ idiot brother’ turning everything he touches to shit, and my does he. There is NOTHING redeeming about this character, there is no redemption. In his world, the bus heading to Damascus would have run him over, or indeed he’d have no money for the bus fare, as he’s so embittered, or judgmental, embracing the mythology of the starving artist, who is pure to his art and finds succour in his own inanition. That is a failed artist.
Of course this is all deliberate, the movie is about creativity, failure and the our demons potentially stopping us from achieving ‘success’, or indeed, whatever our own mindset barometer perceives success to be. One man’s hit space single, is another man’s travesty to artistic endeavour.
All around Davis there is folk who are on various levels happy, unhappy, content, or striving for something, which he invariably corrupts. Through his own emotional myopia he learns absolutely nothing from anyone. Yet there are glimpses in the songs that he plays of awareness/empathy, yet it’s like he doesn’t even listen to himself. Like the man-boy, he refuses to grow up. Like a Peter Pan who was kicked out of The Smiths for being too miserable (and I LOVE The Smiths).
Looking around at all the glowing comments on the poster for the movie, I recognise what they refer too, but I don’t agree at all. Unfortunately it feels like the emperor’s new folk song, not only is Llweyn naked, he’s wholly hollow.
That being said, the movie is made by, and has very talented people in it. There is no way I could dislike Llweyn so much if Oscar Isaac wasn’t doing such a great job with the script. Carey Mulligan and screen partner Justin Timberlake turn in great, funny performances too, pretty much everyone does. The music is pretty good, and the look does successfully add a consistent level of dourness to it. It’s sporadically funny, has some great set pieces, but to be honest I’m trying to find empathy/sympathy for it. And I mentioned to someone only this morning, some types of sympathy are condescending, which I won’t do, cause I still love the Coen brother’s work. I’m just gonna skip to the next track.
Inside Llewyn Davis is in cinemas now.