Today I saw Inside Llewyn Davis, starring Oscar Issac and Carey Mulligan.
Llewyn Davis (Issac) is a 'starving artist' musician in New York. The year is 1961; the mood is grim.
Jean (Mulligan) and Jim (Justin Timberlake) are fellow folk singers who run in the same circles as Llewyn, and Llewyn may or may not have impregnated Jean. This is only one of the apparent many reasons that she hates him.
Davis seems to have a case of perpetual bad luck, but it's terribly hard to sympathize with him because his demeanor is so unappealing. You've met those people—the ones who whine and whine and act as if they're the only person in the world that has to struggle? That's the type of sad sack that Davis encompasses.
So… light attracts light and dark attracts dark. When you fall into a tunnel of darkness and refuse to climb out of it (or lose the will to at least try), you'll only spiral further down. And Davis, who couch surfs his way though his miserable life, is one big ball of darkness.
Jean is so full of venom that we barely even notice when Mulligan's American accent slips or her character tries to do a nice thing for Llewyn. We're way past her by then, having coated us in such anger.
That leaves the brief (but shining) performances by Timberlake and John Goodman to keep things light, and for a few moments they do. Timberlake leading the best song in the film, "Please Mr. Kennedy," and Goodman a passenger on the road trip from hell. Both brilliant performances that gave great flavor to the film.
I can't pretend the Coen brothers haven't done better. This isn't in the same ballpark as No Country for Old Men or The Man Who Wasn't There, but it's not terrible either.
Just make sure you see it when you're in a bright mood or it might bring you down.