Inside Llewyn Davis Review | London Film Festival 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis ReviewThe latest comedy drama from Joel and Ethan Coen is appealingly nostalgic. Inside Llewyn Davis is  set in 1960s wintery New York amongst the Greenwich village music scene; a place where the beards and heavy coats could easily be worn by the hipsters of present day East London. Watching it is like stepping right into the past; an experience as indulgent as sipping a cup hot chocolate in a café with steamed windows whilst peering wistfully onto the snowy streets outside. A couple of the faces we spot are from Lena Dunham’s Girls – comparisons between the two are easily made – there’s the same shrewd humour and focus on disillusioned creative types trying to make it in a city that doesn’t care about them.

The hero of the film is fictional failed folk musician Llewyn (Oscar Isaac), struggling through grief and half-heartedly striving to find success when no one wants to know. Bob Dylan is on the cusp of fame and Llewyn’s traditional efforts are fast becoming outdated. He’s wandering around on the subway holding a ginger cat that he’s been landed with, sofa surfing and without a winter coat to call his own. He contacts ex-lover Jean (Carey Mulligan, superb as per usual) to request a place to stay – which doesn’t turn out well as she is furious with him – her delicate waif-like appearance is deceiving, she’s sweet on the outside but venomous on the inside. He sleeps on the floor, loses the cat, and everything goes progressively down hill from there. Circumstances lead to him being on a drive across the country with bitter jazz musician Roland Turner (a memorable cameo by John Goodman) and his moody sidekick Johny Five (Garrett Hedlund), who drives silently with a cigarette permanently in his mouth.

Llewyn becomes desperate – he’s a practically homeless wanderer placed in a prospect free prison of his own making – but we still feel for him as he sits freezing at a coffee bar with soaking wet shoes. Inside Llewyn Davis has created a glimpse of a circle that we may otherwise not see, those potential stars who slipped through the cracks and we never got to know, those artists that have chased their dreams to no avail whether it be from not being good enough, not working hard enough, or not being lucky enough. Thankfully, it isn’t a clichéd rags-to-riches story – it isn’t uplifting by any means – but it is funny and extremely entertaining. What’s more, as with the Coen’s 2000 film Oh Brother Where Art Thou the atmospheric folk soundtrack is killer; they certainly know how to let music do the talking. Not a masterpiece then – it’s too slight a film for that – but certainly a worthwhile achievement.

This review comes from a screening at the 57th BFI London Film Festival 2013 (LFF 2013).

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