I feel somewhat duped by this film. My interpretation of all the marketing and advertising led me to believe that this was to be a life affirming, heart warming tale that would see the audience identify and sympathise with the ‘up against it’ struggling singer/songwriter Llewyn Davis in New York City 1961, and maybe spark a newfound romantic interest in the music of the era. Unfortunately, Llewyn is A TOTAL SHIT and his character is on a steady decline from start to finish ultimately leaving no room for redemption whatsoever (the cat he is so often advertised with most certainly will have wished it’d never crossed paths with him).
As a character study, this is ok. As an uplifting experience, you can forget it, and it has precious little to do with the music scene of the day, but rather we just watch the protagonist fail at everything and bemoan his chosen profession until, as things plummet even further for him, we see and hear a young Bob Dylan take to the stage behind him, the assumption being that it was his negative personality and amoral character that led to his continual mishaps rather than the industry which was about to propel Dylan into the stratosphere of international stardom.
Support from the likes of Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman is fleeting but fine, Garrett Hedlund appears as what seems to be a parody of his character in ‘On the Road’, which The Red Dragon appreciated, and Oscar Isaac is good in the central role of Davis. The rest of the production very much straddles a dangerous divide – the music is good, but verges on dull monotony, the cinematography is unique and distinctive, yet comes close to administering a soporific faded tinge to everything. It’s a gloomy film, and the attempts at humour dotted throughout do precious little to ameliorate the cheap and nasty feeling it ultimately delivers.