Sunday, 26 January 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis - cool for cats?

In Leicester Square, it was a last minute decision to go to see 'Inside Llewyn Davis', the movie about a struggling folk singer on the 1961 Greenwich Village circuit. We're talking the era of early Bob Dylan and the emerging folk scene from the Village inside of New York. I enjoy wandering the area around Bleecker when I'm in New York. So that's a double tick in the box. Music and district. The movie is also directed by the Coen Brothers. Should be another tick.

Yes, I expected to like it a lot. There's great cinematography with every scene evoking stylish album covers from the era and locations that look brilliant.

I just wasn't sure about the main story or character. Oops.

Our man, Llewyn played by Oscar Isaac is in a spiral of downward situations, most of which he tries to escape from by bailing onto the nearest fire escape. Not a complete unknown, he's seen earlier modest recognition with a co-singer who committed jumped off the Washington Bridge.

Llewyn sings fairly well and plays a lot of C, F and G chords. I know he wasn't supposed to be likeable, but aside from throwing the occasional strop, there wasn't any real passion or heart to create empathy.

There's other characters that add some spark. A double act by Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan as a couple of folkies who help Llewyn along. That's Justin on the right.

Mulligan has other problems, but that's where, for me, the film goes rather too formulaic. I don't think she was given the best script here and tries to act her way our of being given a caricatured and sometimes illogical part. Later, when stoned jazz muzo John Goodman turns up, he's also give a part that is larger than life.

Then there's a few middle of the road folk acts that turn up wearing matching sweaters or singing novelty space race tunes. Whenever Llewyn has a chance to get royalties on a song or join an up and coming commercial opportunity, he makes the poor wrong decision. If there's a sign pointing to anywhere better, or anywhere redeeming, our man will miss it. Akron, Ohio, springs to mind.

I began to wonder if the film was all a big movie buffs' in-joke. Introduce a cat to make the main character show some loveable compassion. Show the main character is a bounder by him maybe getting his best friend's girl pregnant. Even the graffiti in the toilet at one stage asks,"What are you doing?"

The Coens are good at quirky humour and I suppose there was some in here. It could be possible to play an irony card too, but I don't think that for me it has really worked. Even the film's narrative loop seemed flimsy and somehow unsatisfactory. I was thinking, surely it can't just be that? as the final credits appeared. Maybe I did care more for the cat(s).

I can understand that sometimes music albums need to be listened to a few times to appreciate their greatness. I'm not so certain that this will happen for me with this movie.


Accidental Londoner said...

I had been meaning to see this - and I probably still will! - but I'm disappointed to hear it fell a bit flat. Maybe if I just focus on the cat and the shots of NYC I'll enjoy it?

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Well, frankly....I didn't even think he cared that much about the cat! Lewyn is a pretty unlikable person in just about every way,and I found the whole film hard to like....The irony for me was at the end it is Bob Dylan singing and about to have the career that Lewyn wanted so badly....And, I remember the first time I saw Dylan I thought he was just terrible! LOL!
I'm not a big fan of The Coen Brothers films, in general.....So, this was just another one that left me cold.

RFM said...

Our takes a very similar. The "Save The Cat" in-joke occurred to me, too.