David Edelstein writes about Inside Llewyn Davis:
The world is lovingly evoked, transcendently soundtracked (under the direction of T Bone Burnett). But it’s also the stage for a definitively downbeat story of an asshole folksinger who pays the piper for his bad personality. The film might be the ultimate proof that the Coens can find hopelessness in the darndest places.
It’s a positive review and I mostly agree with what Edelstein says, but the Greenwich Village of Inside Llewyn Davis is not lovingly evoked. It’s a cold, empty and superficial landscape where poseurs do their best to pretend to be folk musicians. This becomes especially apparent in the scene after Llewyn returns from Chicago, when a quartet of four be-sweatered vocalists sing an Irish folk song to the former’s chagrin. The scene doesn’t celebrate the group’s homage to folk music, but lampoons it. They’re supposed to look ridiculous.
As are many of the characters in Greenwich who aren’t Llewyn Davis. They’re a bunch of bohemians acting as if they’ve spent a lot of time outside of the West Side.
When I was in a rock band we used to play shows at a few different venues around Southern California. A couple times we played at Chain Reaction. We put on more than a couple shows at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach. Before it closed we opened for Days Away and Mayday Parade (don’t ask) at The Alley in Fullerton. Any given night you could have gone to one of these three venues and seen a band playing music that was virtually indistinguishable from the group they followed. You would either hear hardcore, ska, emo or pop punk. It was gross.
So it goes with the Greenwich Village of Inside Llewyn Davis, which idealizes that setting in the same way that Mad Men is nostalgic about the 1960s: only if you miss the point. These stories aren’t supposed to make you long for a bygone era, but make you wonder why we only remember the good parts, and none of the flaws.