Sunday, February 02, 2014

Review of "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Llewyn Davis is a not very successful folk singer in New York in the early 1960s. That's it really. He is not a terribly bad singer - not comically bad, though the songs he chooses are unremittingly miserable. If the film wanted, it could portray him as a good singer without him actually having to sing any better. He's shot sympathetically when he's singing - it's only the reactions of others (lukewarm applause, mildly negative responses by agents and promoters) that tell us that he's supposed to be not terribly good.

In fact, he's not much good at anything. He doesn't relate well to other people, and he treats them badly. But unlike say Sammy Glick in 'What Makes Sammy Run' he doesn't climb upwards on the backs of the people he has treated badly. He slides down on their backs. Even the really bad dulcimer-playing woman at the folk club who he barracks from the small audience turns out to have a tough and violent husband who beats him up Llewyn in an alleyway.

He can't look out of a window without bumping his head on the frame, he can't have sex with a woman without making her pregnant, he can't throw out a box of old stuff from his parents' house without throwing out important identity documents with it.

I could go on but it would only be recapitulating the misery of the film. It's supposed to be warm and funny, but it's not. It's about failure and the tragedy of caring about something that you're don't do very well. It reminded me of Amadeus in that respect. Not a bad film at all, and beautiful to look at, but not what you could call enjoyable.

Small side note: almost everyone in the film is white. Maybe that just reflects how separate the worlds of black and white people were in the early 1960s.

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