Inside Coen Brothers’ Inside Lewyn Davis

     I haven’t seen every Coen Brothers film but I’ve seen the big ones: Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, and now Inside Lewyn Davis. 

     All you need to know about the film is that Llewyn Davis is a folk singer, one stuck in a cyclical life of living on couches, barely making ends meet. The movie has no plot but one giant theme of failure. Anyone who is hoping to one day turn their creative outlet into something that can sustain them financially will leave this film feeling down, putting themselves in Llewyn’s place as he struggles to just get by.
     Once part of a duo, his partner threw himself off the George Washington Bridge, now he is basically living the life of a tramp endlessly couch surfing between the parents of his former partner and the couple who is beginning to succeed where he can’t. There is no character arc for Llewyn Davis, but that’s the point. The fact that he does not go through any significant changes, not when he finds out Jean is pregnant, not when he finds out Diane never received the abortion, not when he goes to Chicago and not when he passes the town his now 2-year-old kid would reside in. By the end of the film he is left the same, performing at the Gaslight the songs of his former duo opening for a young Bob Dylan who is about to become a star.

     The most heartbreaking line in the entire film is when Llewyn Davis is Bob Grossman hears this beautiful song and simply replies “I don’t see any money here.” While Llewyn’s story is sad in a pathetic kind of way the movie doesn’t paint him as a saint. In fact, he’s kind of a jerk who is unable to connect with people, dismissive, a bit pretentious and a philanderer. You’re left to wonder if his failures are his own fault or do you admire a man who isn’t willing to compromise his music in order to make a living? The act in which he tries to rejoin the merchant marines after being rejected by Bob Grossman and returning to New York is where Llewyn is the most sympathetic in the film. He returns ready to give up, tired from the stress and burden of it all, realizing he’s not going anywhere with his music. He plans to return to being a merchant marine like his father, to just “exist” as he puts it. He visits his father one last time before he plans to head off, playing a song he says his father used to like. Now his father’s only reaction, due to the onset of dementia or alzheimers and in response, summing up Llewn’s music career nicely, he shits himself without registering his son is even there besides some dead eye contact.
          In the end, he can’t even return to being a merchant marine. Llewyn Davis cannot even enact any kind of change in his life away from his own failures. Is Llewyn Davis’ story a tragedy? No but that does not make it any less sad to see.