Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★★½

Dour story of an early 1960's folk singer trying to make a go of a solo career following the suicide of his partner. This is the type of character the Coen brothers do so well, the luckless and self-destructive loner, caring little for himself and set upon by family, women, cops, total strangers and life in general. This film takes a different approach however, in its dark and serious tone... there's almost none of their wonderful surrealistic humor that invited us to smile at the The Dude, Ulysses Everett McGill, H.I. McDunnough, or Jerry Lundegaard. Llewyn Davis seems a pretty hopeless case... even when he makes an effort (which isn't often), things go wrong at every turn and we are not given a single glimmer of sunshine (even Bruno Delbonnel's dark and desaturated cinematography helps drag us down into the depths of Llewyn's self-pity). The film's not completely without humor (in particular, John Goodman reprises the blustery self-absorbed Foghorn Leghorn character we've seen in earlier Coen films), nor is it completely lacking in hope ... every time Llewyn picks up his guitar we see that he's not without promise as a musician, his heartfelt and tender renditions hinting that he really does have something to offer and that there's a person of worth within that sad creature, one that might yet find his way out.

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