‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is a film that explores Greenwich Village in 1961 and follows the struggling career of musician Llewyn Davis. With Bob Dylan about to explode into music, we instead witness Llewyn go from couch to couch whilst also enduring the wrath of Carey Mulligan. At least he has a cat to keep him company (for the most part). This latest release from the Coen Brothers stands apart from their previous pictures such as ‘No Country for Old Men‘ and ‘True Grit‘, in the sense that it isn’t filled with action and eye-patches but rather with a story that never quite takes off.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film and especially Oscar Isaacs’ central performance as he effectively portrays the wearied Davis, tired of trying to make a career out of music. The live rendition of ‘Please Mr Kennedy’ was a particular highlight and I urge anyone to see the film simply for that moment. However, it is Ulysses the ginger Tom cat, who steals the screen with his relaxed nature, contrasting with Llewyn’s unruly and erratic behaviour. There has been a wide range of cats throughout cinema from Blofeld’s Persian cat of villainy to the unbearable Garfield, but there is something adorable about Ulysses’ simple longing for adventure, or perhaps maybe just a saucer of milk, that makes him such an appealing little chap. Interestingly, Ulysses has more of an adventure than Llewyn as the musician does very little, while the cat seems to make the most of his freedom. No matter where these two characters go throughout the course of the film, they both return to where they started: home for Ulysses and the local bar for Llewyn. Ulysses manages to escape the clutches of Llewyn and makes the most of his freedom whereas I cannot help but compare Llewyn to a boomerang, no matter how far he tries to travel, he always finds himself back where he started.
As the film began, I thought that a real journey was about to take place, but by the end, I felt like Llewyn had just taken us around the block a few times and that was it. Joel Coen admitted that the film “doesn’t really have a plot” and that was clear throughout. This is most evident when Llewyn is driving in the car with Garrett Hedlund and John Goodman’s brilliantly acted heroine injecting, suicide advising Roland Turner. As Llweyn travels to Chicago, we believe that he is actually moving on, and the film spends a good 15 minutes in the car. Then Garret Hedlund’s character is taken away by police and that is the end of that.
The pallet of the film is beautiful and it successfully conveys the harsh winter of 1961 and it is wonderfully shot, as one would expect from the Coen brothers. However, even though there are constant references to Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, I never felt as if I was taken on a journey. I struggled to feel any sympathy for Llewyn as he constantly demonstrated his vulgar side by shouting at those who offered him shelter and harassing fellow musicians. On the other hand, the constant abuse from Carey Mulligan’s Jean created a small opportunity for sympathy as there are only so many times it is acceptable to call someone an “asshole”.
Overall, I enjoyed watching ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ and I would recommend it, but the lack of expedition or any real development made it difficult to become emotionally involved with the picture, and for that reason, I understand the film’s ‘snub’ at the Academy Awards. However, I would not be surprised if, with time, this became a cult classic.
Freddie’s Favourite Line: “Everything you touch turns to shit, you’re like King Midas’ idiot brother”- Jean (Carey Mulligan)