*** out of ****
It's always a tightrope act when a film casts an unlikable character as its protagonist. Some films overcome this (all of the characters in Goodfellas are loathsome). But it can leave an audience cold. Such is the case with the Coen Brothers' new film Inside Llewyn Davis.
Set in the early 1960s in New York, Davis is largely plotless, following the misadventures of an aspiring folk singer (Oscar Isaac) as he bounces from couch to couch, deals with an angry ex-lover (Carey Mulligan), and tries to salvage his career.
It's admirable that the Coens had the guts to tell the story of a jerk who doesn't change much. But, the emotional void at the film's center makes it hard to become invested in it. Which is a shame, because there's a lot to like here. The cinematography and soundtrack are excellent. Individual scenes are funny and well-written.
It may seem like a weird analogy, but your feelings about Treme may be a good barometer here. If a plotless, slice-of-life dip into a richly detailed backdrop with a great soundtrack is your cup of tea, you'll like it. If you need a plot or a hero you can sympathize with, stay away.