“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” – Mark Twain
Inside Llewyn Davis is an interesting film with a great soundtrack. Our hero Llewyn is a starving artist type in 1961 who sleeps on the couch of anyone who will let him crash with them for a night or two. He sings depressing songs about things like the death of Queen Jane Seymour and how he’s looking forward to being hanged. His manager might have been a success in Vaudeville, but he’s not good at picking talent now.
We follow Llewyn around as he preforms, looks for places to sleep, accidentally kidnaps a cat, and generally has a rotten time of it.
The Coen Brothers are brilliant filmmakers, but they have never really been good at making movies. Inside Llewyn Davis wants to be a parody of an Art Houe Film while at the same time actually being an Art House Film. It’s a high brow bit of business that wants to be taken seriously-and as far as I call tell, most people have. It’s a brilliant bit of filmic construction. A textbook example of how to make a film. I just didn’t find it all that much fun to watch.
There’s a scene where our hero is auditioning for the owner of a huge and successful nightclub in Chicago. Llewyn plays one of his dirges and the man listens attentively. He then says-I don’t see a lot of money here. I have to believe that the Coen Brothers have heard that more than once in their careers.
The Coen Brothers last movie was the shockingly successful True Grit. Shocking because it was a Coen Brothers movie that was a commercial success and because most people thought the John Wayne version was perfect and didn’t need a redo. Inside Llewyn Davis takes the Brothers back to the more familiar territory of offbeat, weird, and well, you just don’t get it.
John Goodman’s cameo is by far the best part of Inside Llewyn Davis. His cold and abrasive manner. His simple superiority that he is a professional musician while Llewyn is nothing. And his brutally honest opinion that the choice of which Bridge Llewyn’s partner chose to jump to his death from showed what a loser he was. Like every other aspect of the film, this little sequence is ultimately unsatisfactory as random events determine its outcome.
Inside Llewyn Davis was worth watching once, but I’m much more likely to replay the soundtrack a few more times than watch our hero trudge from sofa to sofa again.