Movie Review: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Terry's Take

Movie Review: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

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The new movie, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, is latest work from Joel and Ethan Coen, the filmmaking brothers who gave us FARGO and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It's a really good film about a fairly unlikable guy.
 
The movie is dark comedy-drama that takes us back the music scene of Manhattan's Greenwich Village in the year 1961.
      
It's essentially a character study of a struggling folk singer who refuses to compromise.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is beautifully made and very well acted, but audiences must be willing to sympathize with its melancholy antihero.

Clip:
(Llewyn opens door to an outside the club he's been playing in.)
Stranger in the alley: Had to open your big mouth, huh, funny boy?
Llewyn: I'm sorry. Who are you?
(The man socks him in the jaw.)

The filmmakers don't show us why a man has slugged Llewyn until the very end of the film. But it doesn't take long to see that Llewyn Davis is  an unhappy man who doesn't make enough money from his music to rent an apartment.

Oscar Isaac is terrific as the folk singer who survives by sleeping on the couches of various friends. He's an artist, but he's also the kind of person who keeps shooting himself in the foot.

Clip:
Jean (Carrie Mulligan: Do you think you're staying here tonight?
Llewyn: Uh, I was hopin' to.
(Because there's another person in the room, she shows him a note that says "I'm pregnant.")
Llewyn: So I can't stay here tonight?

When he learns that he's impregnated Jean, the wife of a friend, he's not very sympathetic.

Jean: Do you ever think of the future at all?
Llewyn: You mean like flying cars? hotels on the moon?

But he does take care of the cat that escaped as he was leaving another friend's apartment.
   
Jazz musician: Folk singer with a cat? Is that part of your act? Every time you play a C major, he pukes a hairball….You're a solo act?
Llewyn: No, I had a partner. Threw himself off the George Washington Bridge.

That his musical partner, Mike, committed suicide seems to be the main reason Llewyn is so morose, but the filmmakers don't give us any more details about it. Instead, we watch as Llewyn muddles through his life, showing real emotion only when he is singing and playing his guitar.

Llewyn (singing at a dinner party): If I had wings…
When a woman starts to harmonize with him, he stops singing.
Llewyn: What are you doin'?
Woman: Well, it's Mike's part.
Llewyn: Don't do that.
Woman: It's Mike's part.
Llewyn: I know what it is; don't do that.   

Even though the self defeating Llewyn isn't very likable, I found myself sympathizing with him. Who doesn't understand what it's like to sometimes be your own worst enemy?
      
I also really enjoyed the film's dark humor and dreamlike pace plus the soulful music produced by T Bone Burnett.

Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now               thunter@hawaiinewsnow.com