Movies: Inside Llewyn Davis

If someone were to put the question to me flat out: "Did you like Inside Llewyn Davis?" I'd probably have to answer, "Not really."

There are things about the movie to like. It's beautifully shot. The music is, of course, quite good. The acting too. But the characters and the story . . . Those I liked less.

It's a small movie. More a character study than plot driven. But since Llewyn isn't terribly likable, I found it tough to sit through a movie about him. I also have a bit of an issue with "suffering" movies—that is, movies that focus on people's hard times and such. It's not my idea of entertainment, watching people walk around freezing without winter coats. I'm sure it's supposed to be edifying or something, watching a movie like this, but eating liver is also supposed to be edifying and I don't do that either; I get my iron from other sources, ones I enjoy more.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a kind of snapshot of folk musician Llewyn's life, and it's a mess of his own making. He had been part of what I suppose was a relatively popular duo, but then his partner committed suicide and Llewyn has been trying to make it as a solo act. But his records don't sell and his manager is lousy. Llewyn gets by on occasional Greenwich Village gigs and couch surfing, constantly taking advantage of others' generosity (even when it's clear he isn't welcome).

And yet this seems to be his ideal. He berates other musicians who are (as he calls them) "careerist." Those who aspire to actually make money at the craft. Well, I suppose it's easy to condemn what you know you can't have—and Llewyn travels to Chicago to try and get a foot in the door there only to be told he should really be part of a duo or group act because he'll never make it solo.

Messed up hypocrite that he is, Llewyn is still somewhat better than Jean (Carey Mulligan), who is shrill and awful as another folk singer who slept with Llewyn and got pregnant and now doesn't know if the baby is Llewyn's or her . . . long-term partner's? husband's? (played by Justin Timberlake, their relationship is not defined) Deciding she'd rather not risk the child being Llewyn's she demands he pay for her to have an abortion. Which is worse: Jean's drive or Llewyn's unwillingness to pull himself together? He has opportunities but always takes the easy way out of things; at one point, with a little paperwork he could get royalties on a record he sings on but would rather just take a one-time check. Sure, he needs the money, but what if the record ends up a hit? (And then again, what if it doesn't? 'Tis the risk creatives must take.)

By the end, the movie had become something of a drag. There was no up side, no hopefulness in it. Things only got worse as the seconds ticked by. I wouldn't have wanted false optimism, but . . . I just don't know what I'm supposed to have taken away from this film. An impression of the 60s Greenwich Village scene? ::shrug::

I'm thinking the cat—you saw it in the trailers, of course you did—probably had a more interesting story.

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