The Coen Brothers latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis, feels like a mixed bag. Now I wanted to see this film since I was raised listening to the folk music of the 60’s and I was a huge fan of the Coen take on bluegrass with O Brother, Where Art Thou? so my expectations were high for the film. This film is purported based on the memoir of Dave Van Ronk The Mayor of MacDougal Street. The film won the Grand Prix, the second most prestigious prize at the Cannes Film Festival. I own the soundtrack to both films so it has that going for it. While the music is great it seems like the story falls flat. As usual there are spoilers to follow.
The film tells of a fictional folk singer Llewyn Davis who is struggling to make a name for himself as a solo artist. It is said that Llewyn is inspired by Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and other performers from the New York folk scene in the early 60s. We follow a week in Llewyn’s life and it sure is a very busy week. After performing one night he is told that someone is outside to see him, Llewyn gets beaten up for heckling the previous nights performance. The next morning as he leaves his friends place and their cat runs out so Llewyn has to carry a cat around. The cat escapes and Llewyn travels to Chicago to try to get into the big time he shares the car with John Goodman (in his sixth Coen Brother Film). After arriving and auditioning Llewyn is told he would work better in a group and suggest a pairing with another male and a female (pseudo Peter, Paul and Mary) he refuses as he used to be in a duo and his partner jumped from the George Washington Bridge and he is not over it yet. So he treks back to New York and follows his sisters urging to rejoin the merchant marines this doesn’t last long and he is back to singing. The ending echos the beginning of the film with Llewyn preforming and then going out back to get beaten up for heckling the night before.
I think the main reason that i felt the story was flat is that nothing good happens to the main character we spend about two hours invested with the character and he isn’t better or worse off in the end. He does things but there is no real plot or any catharsis. Joel Coen has even said that the film doesn’t really have a plot and that it was a concern so they threw the cat in. If you are a fan of the Coen Brother’s films see the movie this is the first Coen Brother’s film not to have a death in it. If you really like folk music just listen to the soundtrack and ignore the film sure there are some interesting events that happen but many of these are derived for The Mayor of MacDougal Street.