Llewyn Davis's Vision of Unrelenting Irony
The Folk scene in Greenwich Village, New York City, circa 1961, was a trans-formative time in American music. It does not particularly mean that all of the music was good, or especially unique, it just was a new wave of sound, which should be understood from a historical context. For whatever purpose, Folkie Llewyn Davis just never fit into that time, in that place, in a manner comparable to his relative talent.
Llewyn Davis, played well enough by musician /actor Oscar Isaac, put up a wall around himself built upon the foundation of perpetual irony, which was destroying whatever career that he could have made for himself. Or possibly, the supreme irony would be that Llewyn would succeed because, or inspite of his impediment of an artist's unremarkable sense of misplaced priorities. We, the audience, however, will never know since all of this perfect prosperity for Llewyn was fundamentally fleeting. What we witnessed, after spending that one week in Llewyn's life, was that a talented Llewyn Davis was no closer to his objective of supporting himself by his melodious talents than when the week began; in fact, it did appear that, by the end of that week, he was drifting farther away from his original objective.
Llewyn's unsuccessful professional life was not only a product of his chronic inaptitude of misplaced priorities, but bad management, bad luck and no sense of promotion. All Llewyn did possess was an ample talent to create good music, and a profound knack of discovering his place in the supreme irony of perpetual 'bad karma'. In other words: No unique talent goes sufficiently rewarded in Llewyn Davis's bizarre world.
At one point during this unrelenting week of Llewyn's unrewarded life and avocation, he stated: "I'm tired. I thought I just needed a night's sleep but it's more than that."
The film, "Inside Llewyn Davis", was as much about the story of a misguided, poorly managed underdog as it was the nouveau-hip music scene in the Bohemian District of Greenwich Village, which took a variation of what was old and made it trendy, political. But the Coen brothers' film was not about politics - thank God - it was all about Llewyn Davis's life as a square peg in a very round scene, and Llewyn was losing ... badly.
Joel and Ethan Coen have, once again, have written and directed a film that has purpose, however measured, and enough depth to make one wonder: Is this it for Llewyn ... does he make it ... or is this a formative part of his life as a poignant, possibly sad moment of remembrance in his golden years? You know, not everyone makes it; but most everyone contributes something. Llewyn contributed his musical talents, irrespective as to how well they were universally received.
Accordingly, not everyone felt that Llewyn contributed anything positive. The promiscuous Jean Berkey (and not just with Llewyn), played by Carey Mulligan, blamed Llewyn Davis for her most recent pregnancy, stating in a somewhat venomous manner: "I should have had you wear double condoms. But if you ever do it again, which is a favour to women everywhere you should not. But if you do, you should be wearing condom on condom. And then wrap it in electrical tape. You should just walk around always, inside a great big condom. Because you are shit!"
Sadly for Llewyn, he actually had feelings for Jean, regardless of her opinion of his person, which only serves to highlight Llewyn's most troubling flaw: He just did not understand people at their core - what made them who they are. That Llewyn made music, Folk music, that primarily spoke to 'better angels' within humanity is the film's supreme irony, amongst a backdrop of continual unrelenting multiples of ironies.
One must come to expect this when the Coen Brothers produce any of their self written, brotherly directed, low budget films that they make just because they feel like it. It's a good film and well worth 104 minutes of your time to get to know Llewyn Davis's world.
Rated R. Released on DVD March 11, 2014.
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.