Perhaps it was not the main character but the feeling that so much film-making skill had been directed at so slight a product. The 1960s New York settings were very convincing (the subway a real work of art) as was Llewyn’s road trip to Chicago and back. Similarly all the casting was excellent with heavyweight, if brief, contributions from John Goodman and F Murray Abraham, as well as Isaac’s flawless portrayal of a flawed young man, artfully contrasted with Stark Sands’ Troy, a soldier with a promising career as a singer. It could be that I just don’t like folk music that much (a soft spot for Joan Baez apart), but having said that, the Please Mr Kennedy session is a joy.
If you find this review shallow, then read Francine Prose’s for Prospect Magazine:
Llewyn’s passion for that music, and his inability to create, for himself, a career—or a life—remind us of a current that runs through many of the Coen brothers’ films: you can have talent, promise, a moderate amount of decency and luck, and things might still not work out. This may be the least American aspect of the Coen’s work, the least characteristic of a culture that (openly and privately) believes that hard work and good intentions will pay off, and of a country in which, to quote Julian Barnes, “emotional optimism is a constitutional duty.”It will also take you to Please Mr Kennedy on YouTube.