Llewyn is a song man who nearly just nearly “made it” in the 1960s folk scene, until he didn’t. When we meet him, he’s couch hopping with a friend’s cat in his arms and his guitar over his shoulder. Freezing in the winter air in his corduroy jacket, he admits in attitude that he is significantly down on his luck. So stays the drawn face, which only softens when he’s around his friend’s girlfriend, who he happened to get pregnant, who treats him with a perfect Carey Mulligan-y dose of wistful, curious, cussing contempt. She reminds us that we’re not dealing with a man who will redeem himself. Ever. He’s a loser. And in case we forget it, because he’s the protagonist and he sings pretty, she repeats: YOU ARE A LOSER. I hate you. Got it. (Might I just mention here how much I love Mulligan’s sugary spice wherever it graces audiences. Very much.)
So, summary: the Coen Brothers made a movie about a groovy time in the most fascinating place, with a sweet soundtrack and an old school hipster-mirror wardrobe (when men had beards because they were that much closer to their ancestors, not because models had them), about…a total loser guy who not even a sweet cat wants to stick around with, who ends up getting punched to the ground in an alley on his own turf in the back alley of the hotspot of the folk movement…for drunk-heckling a middle-aged mama type. It grossed over $31 million. Are you impressed? I can’t believe it if you said no, so I’ll ignore you.
For the yes people, I assume you saw the film. Did anybody like Llewyn? Because I think that the point went beyond liking him. He was relentlessly acidic in temperament- a downer.
Anyway, beyond to where? To what’s increasingly, boldly becoming the purpose of risky films with All Star cast / productions: damage. Not just drama, but the damage of massive consumer impulse relay technology and its imminent mismanagement. A helpless downfall of the have-nones.
Llewyn owns nothing, really. He nearly joins the armed forces when he’s a foot in the grave of the rock bottom (don’t worry, he didn’t succeed in rejoining, either). Anyway, he’s the main guy in this movie, but he only really serves to highlight the fact that bigger forces of consumerism control his fate, not his talent, but his marketability. Can he be packaged? If not, then nothing else matters. This damage is the wear of continuous, long term rejection by seemingly skill-less and colorless forces. And the artists, they don’t understand. The free spirited people get damaged. What they are is not easily adaptive. They see colors even when they are living in the darkest shades of gray, but not being able to show their colors, feeling unworthy, that leads to damages. That’s where our drama lies these days. That’s why Llewyn is one of the most important losers of 2013: he really hits the bottom on all fours, and he never breaks, he merely demonstrates the fear of the era, a mirror.