Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★★

Llewyn Davis is a cipher for the struggling American artist, but he's more emblematic of the struggle at large. He gets beaten, goes broke, and burns through his relationships, but it's hard not to emphasize with his actions (if not condone them). We can clearly see how talented he is, but his success is constantly undermined by his obligations to others; in a way the Coen brothers made a big "fuck you" movie to everyone who says "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" (a phrase whose etymology highlights its impossible nature).

"I'm tired. I thought I just needed a night's sleep but it's more than that."

There's no real "story" here and often it feels like a big-budget mumblecore movie with an extra bit of bleakness: a somewhat-unlikable protagonist faces constant hardships and setbacks, and the few brief moments of joy just make the fall back down more painful. Things happen and Davis deals with them, in ways that may hurt but what else can he do; his journeys usually end up bereft of any progress; other people pop up momentarily and may never be seen from again. Sounds a lot like real life, yeah?

The Coens make quintessential American films, and Inside Llewyn Davis is no exception. I appreciate the lovely music, the poignant acting, and cold photography, but what I'm most impressed by is how the story feels timeless. It's somehow about nothing happening at all, yet feels like the model American myth.

"If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song."

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