WITH ITS RATHER UNINSPIRED TRAILER, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Inside Llewyn Davis, but, being the newest Coen brothers offering, there was no way I was going to miss it. After all, they made Fargo, one of the greatest pictures of all time, and, more recently, No Country for Old Men, another great one. Then again, they’ve been a very mixed bag, also having created only half-successful films such as Burn After Reading, and even less successful ones like True Grit.
It turns out the trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis is well representative of the film, which is to say not much happens here. A middling storyline is further brought down by so-so music. Llewyn Davis prominently features music — supposedly early 60’s folk — so it’s important that the music is good and rings true to its period and the setting. Amadeus, Walk The Line, The Doors and Crazy Heart were great films largely due to the fitting quality of the music. As a fan of folk music and artists like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary, I found the ‘original folk music’ in this film severely wanting.
The performances were all fine, and Carey Mulligan in particular is funny and entertaining. This movie is receiving universal critical praise, but, for me, though I found stretches of the film to be compelling, the weak soundtrack and unsatisfactory plot development brought it down. I did like the whole ‘cat’ thing, a side-story which is, tellingly, the best part of the movie.
My other problem: many critics are hailing how Inside Llewyn Davis evokes the early 60’s folk music scene in New York City. But there’s something that does such a better job of bringing home 1960’s NYC: Mad Men. Though Mad Men is set in the advertising world, its occasional glimpses into the world of beatniks provide a much richer view of that culture than this entire movie.
For all those who are lauding the movie, try imagining it without the ‘cat’ story. Still liking the movie? I doubt it. But with the cat, Carey Mulligan, and some insight into the music scene of the time — especially the business side — there’s enough here for a 5/10.