The Big Issue : Edition 449
SELECT what's happening in the arts, fIlm, MUSIC, BOOKS AND DVDS THE BIG ISSUE 10 -- 23 JAN 2014 37 INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS |||| EVERY FEW YEARS a folk album is re-released that galvanises the myth of the undiscovered genius – that tragic misft who made one perfect record, overlooked in its own time until a curious soul fnds a copy in a junk shop and realises its majesty. Who knows if Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), the troubled troubadour of the Coen Brothers latest drama, had the inefable something that would see him celebrated decades on. If the flm’s original soundtrack is anything to go by, he just might have: what the Coens did for Southern twang in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) they’ve done here for quavering folk standards. One imagines that Llewyn would have loved the idea, for beneath his mounting disenchantment there’s a sense that, at some point, he found penury romantic. Isaac brings a saturnine depth to the down-on-his-luck musician, whose sadness is written in the dark circles that threaten to swallow his eyes. Trudging through the icy New York winter, his only shield is a tatty corduroy blazer and his guitar. Llewyn is one of the Coen Brothers’ memorable failures, like the eponymous lead of Barton Fink (1991) or Larry Gopnik of A Serious Man (2009). The melancholy troubadour is still reeling from the death of his former singing partner and friend, and is now trying to make his way as a soloist. While the clean-cut, turtleneck-wearing schmucks of the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene are making it big, Llewyn is struggling just to get gigs. He’s got the talent, but he’s always just missing the boat. When his friend Jim (Justin Timberlake) gives him sessional work recording ‘Goodbye Mr Kennedy’, a hilarious novelty song, Llewyn opts for quick bucks rather than royalties. Of course, it’s a chart-topper. That said, Llewyn is not an entirely likeable guy. He’s been mooching of friends and family for so long their hospitality is wearing thin. Jim’s girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) at frst seems cruel, until we discover the mess Llewyn left behind on his last visit. He drunkenly takes out his frustrations by heckling a matronly performer at the local club, and loses the cat of the older couple who take him in at his worst. The cat is almost a metaphor for the contentedness that eludes him – always just beyond his reach, slipping from his hands. But if Llewyn would only stop chasing and sit still, it would eventually fnd its own way back. by Rebecca Harkins-Cross Inside Llewyn Davis is released nationally from 16 January.