The Cohen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, have been among the most successful American filmmakers of recent years, winning an Oscar in 2007 for “No Country for Old Men.” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” their most recent film, explores the folk music scene of Greenwich Village in 1961. Llewyn Davis was formerly a member of a folk singing duo until his partner committed suicide. Now he is trying to make it on his own.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” is a beautifully filmed, atmospheric movie, taking us into the dark Village clubs, with spotlights on the small stages and cigarette smoke swirling through the air. While the movie looks good, its story is lacking. Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is not an attractive character. He does not have his own apartment. Instead, he crashes on the couches of friends and his sister. Llewyn sleeps with the wives of his friends, then, when they become pregnant, pays for them to have abortions. Llewyn has a temper and shouts insults at others. He has a decent singing voice, but keeps sabotaging his career, along with his relationships. It’s hard to have much sympathy for Llewyn. That’s the difficulty with the film. It’s hard for anyone, even the Cohen brothers with all their talent, to make a movie about such an unlikable main character.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” has nice moments: Llewyn singing a song named “Hang Me” in a club in the opening scene or riding the subway with a friend’s cat. There are moments in which Isaac looks like he will be able to garner some sympathy for Llewyn, but it doesn’t last long before he sabotages himself and we’ve had it with him again. I kept waiting in vain for some sign of redemption in Llewyn, or an indication that he has learned from his mistakes.
To my surprise, “Inside Llewyn Davis” has received some of the year’s best reviews. Even though the Cohens’ filmmaking skills are evident in re-creating a particular time and place from long ago, there just wasn’t enough to Llewyn Davis to keep my interest for two hours.
Tom Condon, OP