Friday, December 20, 2013
Inside Llewyn Davis
At the opening of the film, sitting in a small cafe in New York City's Greenwich Village, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) beautifully sings dolorous melody "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" in its entirety. That immediately tells us that he is a talent folk musician.
Then of course, like a young artist in any time period, he can hardly survive. He desperately looks for a breakthrough gig, while couch-surfing among his friends. When he stays with kind hearted the Gorfeins (Ethan Phillips and Robin Barrett), he lets their cat escape the apartment. When he crashes with his old fling and fellow folk musician, Jean (Carey Mulligan), he is scolded for getting her pregnant. When he sleeps in his nephew's bed at his resentful sister's place, he is lectured to be more responsible while his belongings are thrown out of the house.
Llewyn's life is as cold as the winter in New York City, but he is not giving up yet. He hitchhikes to Chicago and auditions at Bud Grossman's (F. Murray Abraham) folk club Gate Horn. But Bud plainly tells Llewyn: "I don't see a lot of money here."
That marks the end of Llewyn's trying quest as far as his music career goes. But as a rich and fascinating character, Llewyn's legacy lives on, thanks to the Coen brothers.
If you are familiar with folk music or the New York City scenes in the '60s, or if you are a musician yourself trying to make it, you may feel more connected to the film. But even you are not, the film's arresting characters, superb cinematography, touching music, great performance, and striking originality are simply irresistible.
Even the casting for supporting roles is surprisingly delightful. Those supporting actors all seem to have a distinct and memorable facial or voice feature in addition to their personalities. Besides John Goodman's excellent performance as an arrogant jazz musician, who would forget Sylvia Kauders's marvelous act as the sarcastic Ginny, the secretary of Llewyn's label manager Mel Novikoff (Jerry Grayson)?
Would it be easier if Llewyn Davis were trying to make it today with Youtube and the Internet at reach? According to "Inside Llewyn Davis," the answer is no.