Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★½

Inside Llewyn Davis is an uncharacteristically melancholy offering from the Coen Brothers, which probably explains why I didn't like it as much as some of their other films.

Set amid New York's folk music scene in 1961, the title character is a struggling singer-songwriter the other half of whose double-act has recently killed himself. He finds going solo inconvenient to say the least; he never has money and is a burden on his friends. To make matters worse, he loses the cat belonging to two of said friends.

It's clear from A Serious Man, this, Hail, Caesar! and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (I haven't yet seen True Grit) that the brothers have been trying to take their shared career in a new direction, and I applaud them for it even though I wouldn't place any of these films (with the exception of A Serious Man) in the same tier as their classics. In this case, what really prevented me from getting what I wanted out of it was the relentlessly neutral tone of the whole thing. The music contributed heavily to this atmosphere; it's generally good, but I couldn't whether or not the joke was that all the songs sounded the same. Llewyn Davis himself is an unlikeable protagonist, and I never found myself rooting for him. It's a good thing the cast is so uniformly brilliant, with John Goodman unsurprisingly the highlight. There are some nice laughs to be got not only out of Llewyn's clumsy pursuit of the cat but also out of the wacky denizens of Greenwich Village at this point in history.

Inside Llewyn Davis is simultaneously undemanding and an acquired taste. It's a pleasant watch made pleasanter by the relaxed pacing, though on the whole it tends to feel cloying.

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