Inside Llewyn Davis is about a 30-something starving musician folk singer that takes place in 1960s Greenwich Village. It was written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring Oscar Isaac. The film gives an earlier and much poorer version of the West Village, as the current West Village is an extremely expensive place and not a place where broke musicians can live.
Oscar Isaac does a very good job of portraying the part of someone from the underground. As Llewyn Davis he comes across as the typical homeless street punk with an attitude on his shoulder who rejects all personal responsibility. Anyone who knows crusties (homeless punks in NYC) or so called artists will have come across this attitude. It’s almost cliche. And there are of course still musicians who play in dinky New York clubs, though the number of clubs one can play in has diminished as gentrification has repurposed much of the nightclub or bar space towards high end retail, residential apartments, and other purposes. But because the film was set in an early time period, some of the things Llewyn does will come across as unbelievable. Llewyn easily hitchhikes his way across country. A sleepy military man even lets Llewyn drives his car while the military man sleeps. This comes across as extremely unrealistic. Who trusts a stranger like that? As for the easily getting a ride, in the 1960s up until the early 1980s people did more easily give people rides. That changed by the mid 1980s crack epidemic. Still, I find it hard to believe that even decades ago someone would trust a stranger to drive their car while they slept. Llewyn is a bit dated these days. The current generation of starving artists in NYC, hipsters, tend to have at a minimum bachelors degrees, and second careers and/or support from their families. In Llewyn’s day an aspiring musician/actor could have easily worked part time in a bar or restaurant, or temped. Today, due to the expensive of living in NYC those things are just not viable long term, and a lot of office support jobs have been made obsolete by technology. And as today’s artists are hipsters, they’d be far less tolerant of a Llewyn type.
The film does its best to look authentic. The buildings shown are older buildings. Llewyn rides the subway, and the subway cars used are old models the MTA keeps in storage for whenever some filmmaker decides to use certain old subway cars for film. The models used in the 1960s have not been used in regular passenger service in decades. Kudos for the filmmakers for going through all that effort to go for an authentic look, instead of just filming on a modern train that’s in regular service in New York now. The film is worth seeing, but there will be parts that strike one’s suspension of disbelief.