What’s Missing Inside “Llewyn Davis”
Saturday, 18 January 2014 09:11By Aaron Leonard, Truthout | Film Review
The opening scene in the new effort by Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis, introduces us to our hero, such as he is, singing the old folk song, “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me.” It is, as we will learn, an unsubtle clue into the hopelessness at the heart of this film. This is the story of the hapless and fictional folk singer named Llewyn Davis, circa New York City 1961. He is performing at the threshold of what would become the great folk revival that swept the United States at the dawn of the 1960s. While that historical moment was one primed with anticipatory optimism, this film exists somewhere else.
What we have here is a study in perseverance for an artist at neither the top, nor the bottom, of his craft.
Unfortunately, the artist in question is someone of such character, that in the end we are left to wonder whether or not we care. On one level, you cannot fault the Coens for telling the story of a man who lives somewhere in between and doing it in a way that both recreates a world now gone and raises that world to the level of art in the uncanny way they are able to do. This is a Greenwich Village – and Morningside Heights – at once familiar but also dream-like. The problem is the nature of the dream.