At the Q & A session following a screening of Inside Llewyn Davis, a member of the audience asked lead actor Oscar Isaac what he thought would ultimately happen to his character, struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis. Since the movie ends with young Bob Dylan taking the stage, wouldn’t Dylan’s phenomenal success and transformation of the folk music scene serve as a rising tide that lifts Llewyn Davis’ leaky boat?
Oscar Isaac laughed at the very idea. “Llewyn’s stuck on the hamster wheel,” he said cheerfully, adding that maybe he’d wind up giving guitar lessons in Greenwich Village.
Nobody laughed in response. Even the suggestion that a fictional character would fail to make it in America is, apparently, deflating. It was a tough crowd for a Coen brothers film.
Because unlike most other American directors, Joel and Ethan Coen have always been interested in depicting failure. Their new film Inside Llewyn Davistakes such a steady, unblinking look at continuous humiliating defeat, it’s hard to see how the film can find an audience of any size, at least in the USA. Here, we don’t like to think about failure, though it stares most of us in the face every day.
We’ve been conditioned to believe in the power of positive thinking. If we can’t convince ourselves we’re moving Onward and Upward toward success, we’d rather not contemplate our lives at all. (Eileen Jones, “Inside ‘Llewyn Davis’: America at its ugliest,” Salon.com)
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We're in a Depression. It might be worthwhile when discussing America to reference it during the '30s and '40s. That is, while for awhile it was all "a star is born," it eventually became making heroes out of those in the dustbowl — the forgotten. At that point, if you wanted to find a hero in America, it was in those who'd had an apocalypse deposited upon them, and yet were still persisting — that's all, persisting.
They hadn't done much, didn't know much, and weren't about to accomplish anything — other than procuring even sadder kids. But in their poverty-stricken faces America found souls to sustain them.