Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
As a Coen Brothers film, I don’t think Inside Llewyn Davis has their iconic sense of humour; however it does seem to be on par with the development of their works. In comparison to my personal favourite, Raising Arizona, it would be difficult to draw parallels between the two, you can’t really see the same auteur traits, however in comparison to their later films such as True Grit and A Serious Man, and you can definitely see the darker style and ambiguous almost dissatisfying ending.
Llewyn, not necessarily the most sympathetic character as critics are quick to pick up, is a struggling folk musician in 1960s New York. We follow his journey, both literally and metaphorically, to make a living out of his music, and to be able to live with his music.
We are introduced to fellow musicians, fans of the TV show girls will be thrilled with the appearance of the show’s Adam Driver, as well as the lovely Carey Mulligan playing Jean, of Jim and Jean, Jim being played by Justin Timberlake. However in this pair, it is Jean that steals the show, arguably the most sympathetic character, going through an extremely human experience. Had we sympathised with Llewyn, the audience may have found her character annoying and loud, however though her constant referral to Llewyn as “Asshole”, we find ourselves agreeing with her, and also being able to find laughter in her anger.
Although this isn’t my favourite Coen Brothers film by far, I have had the soundtrack on loop all morning. For a film about a musician, it achieves making the music the main character. It is different to other films in the way music is presented; it allows the music to just play. There’s no huge introduction to each song, there’s not a massive production, its natural and it flows with the narrative rather than interrupting it.
You cannot talk about Inside Llewyn Davis without mentioning the cat. The cat is, personally, my favourite character. The care that Llewyn gives this cat also adds a certain bit of humanity to his otherwise cold and quite careless personality. He goes through the film insulting other people, whether on purpose or otherwise. This cat almost redeems him from this through some part of the film.
The unlikable protagonist can be seen as typical of the Coens. Their crime thriller Fargo arguably has little or no likeable characters, neither doe A Serious man, however it’s their ability to create real characters and still make the audience want to watch their films that show their distinct and incredible ability as film makers.