Watching the trailer here for the first time reminded me just how much I loved Inside Llewyn Davis. It’s a real gem from Ethan and Joel Coen, easily up there with their best. I think it was my favourite at LFF this year, though it had some strong competition.
Llewyn Davis (a beautifully gentle performance from Oscar Isaac, rocking a corduroy jacket and beard in the sexiest way possible) is a folk singer in 60s New York. Newly solo after losing his singing partner, he’s flirting with a solo career, reluctant to give up the chance of success. This vague hope is all that he has – Davis has never really grown up. It’s as though he is expecting success to make him a man, and the lack of it has stunted his emotional development. He doesn’t have a home, relying on friends to put him up on their lumpy couches and helping himself from their larders. When he’s rude to one friend, he just moves onto the next, assuming that they’ll have forgotten how rude he was last time he outstayed his welcome. They usually have, there’s a charm in Davis that seems to carry him through. And which carries him a bit too far when impregnates one half of a folk duo (Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, also rocking tremendous jumpers).
There’s a heavy sense of what might have been about Davis, he’s a man who can see off any glimmer of hope that appears, leaving a trail of self-pity in its wake. It’s as if he has failed so much in life that he expects nothing else, and soaks up each new blow with the stolidity of a boxer. You’re torn between wanting him to make a success of things, and thinking that he really doesn’t deserve to.
That all makes it sound a bit sombre, but fear not – the Coens have filled the darkness with plenty of their trademark humour as well as some memorable performances (John Goodman pops up as a frankly quite terrifying jazz musician). The songs are perfect and will make you want to listen to folk music, at least for a short while, when you leave the cinema. If you can sit through Hey Mr Kennedy without giggling and tapping your foot then you’re dead inside. There’s a great cat too, which for a while lets Davis show his caring side. Only for a while though.
Inside Llewyn Davis is nothing short of wonderful – I hope Oscars shower upon it.