‘Please Mr. Kennedy’: Plucky Jam Proves ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Isn’t All Dark and Dirty

By  · Published on December 2nd, 2013

It’s fitting that awards season comes during winter – after all, the more dramatic-skewing fare we tend to get come November and December all but blots out the sunny memories of yet another blockbuster-filled summer season – but that doesn’t mean that every big gun hitting screens near you has to be (or even is) an emotional downer. While Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave may have scared off a few viewers because of repeated cries that the film was brutal and wrenching and highly upsetting, the film is also very rewarding and, we daresay, well worth the emotional upheavals that happen within it (and, conversely, the emotional upheavals that happen to its audience while watching).

The Coen Brothers’ latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, may fall victim to that same “it’s hard!” talk, and its muted color palate, wintry setting, and focus on a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac) who never makes it at his chosen craft might not appeal to those with drama fatigue – but it should. Especially because, in true Coen fashion, Inside Llewyn Davis is very, very funny. Sure, most of the film’s biggest chuckles come care of the crushing inevitability of life, terrible chance encounters, and drug abuse (this film really is funny, we swear), but that’s what makes it relatable. It’s what makes it ring true (and sing true). Yet, there’s nothing as funny, catchy, and plucky in the film than a little ditty called “Please Mr. Kennedy.”

Before we get going on the best song on the film’s stacked soundtrack, here’s all you need to know. Isaac plays Llewyn (you probably already know this), a struggling folk singer trying to make ends meet in 1960’s Greenwich Village, while Justin Timberlake plays his overly earnest pal Jim (who seems to be having far more success than Llewyn) and Adam Driver pops up as the crooning Al Cody (who seems to be existing in a middle plain between Llewyn and Jim). The trio hit the recording studio to lay down a new track – Llewyn needs the money, Al needs the money, and Jim needs…well, you’ll find out. Check it out.

It’s your new favorite song, isn’t it?

Over at The Huffington Post, Mike Ryan spoke to some of the creative team behind the song – including T Bone Burnett, Isaac, and Driver – and it’s a great look inside the making of a bad song or, as Burnett explains, “even if a song is supposed to be bad in a film, it still has to be great. Because if you put bad music in a film, it’s just bad – then the film’s bad. You can put good music in a film and say it’s bad and the audience will believe it’s bad, but it will still be good and they will still be entertained by it, even though they’re told it’s bad. And, on top of it, underneath all of that, it really is great.” Basically, “Please Mr. Kennedy” is a lark, a joke, and a “bad” song – but it’s also a great song that adds immensely to the richness of Inside Llewyn Davis as a whole.

And, yes, it’s damn funny – just like Inside Llewyn Davis itself. See? It’s not all dark and dirty and wintry and crushing and sad – you may even get a few chuckles off at the theater this month (read: you absolutely will get a few chuckles off).

Inside Llewyn Davis opens in limited release on December 6th.