Yesterday I was supposed to go and see Dallas Buyers Club but got to the Tyneside too late, so went for the latest Coen offering. An advert prior to the film encouraged us to “enjoy this grey and pleasant land.” It was a fitting precursor to the film, which does manage to seep into your bones like a wet and windy Sunday in February.
I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me during it and walking around afterwards.
The music was an integral part of the film but vied for attention with the characters. Was the music the main character? I’m not sure. Was it poignant? Almost certainly. Did it change my opinion of folk music? Kind of – I never had anything against it, but just wouldn’t choose to listen to it. It was relaxing, hypnotic, almost sleep-inducing. I have a feeling that as well as being a great film, a younger audience will open up to the music.
I wondered how many people would identify with the main character – the struggle, the choice to pursue your art and sacrifice comfort, the relationship failures. I liked the way you got to look in on the lives of the “normal” characters (friends/sister) where he rests his head, which inevitably look boring and staid. But in comparison to what? Llewyn’s exciting life? There’s a juxtaposition but neither options are portrayed positively. Everyone struggles. There are flashes of humour (who wouldn’t want to f*** Justin Timberlake)? But in the main its tough going, dealing with difficult life issues such as abortion, homelessness, suicide and dementia to name but a few.
I could have eaten up some of the shots with a spoon, they were so delicious – the shots with the cat on the subway, shots of NYC in general. The shots on the road are sumptuous, especially the lights flickering across the wet windscreen like spatters of blood.
I like how the Coens perfectly capture the time period with set design and costumes, and the caricature minor characters who provide comedic moments, sometimes just with their facial expressions. I get the impression that they reference a lot from their childhoods, I can see situations burning onto their memories, to be plucked out and recreated in their future stellar careers.
I identified with his family issues and how they can drag you down. He needs the cat for affection, which he isn’t getting from anyone else in his life. Especially not his permanently pissed off with good reason??? ex – Jean (Carey Mulligan). For me the cat lifts the mood, and when it disappears things get decidedly more sombre. He pushes the cat away and treats it badly, which is probably a reflection of what he thinks of himself. There’s a real similarity with Holly Golightly which was swimming around in my head whenever the cat was on the screen. However, there’s no Hollywood ending here.
The ending made my question my own life and the cycles we can get stuck in. We think we are going down a different path, with new situations and actually getting somewhere. Then we realise (or we don’t) that we have just ended up exactly where we were, bruised and battered from another showdown with life. We can choose to change things. I strongly identified with the vicious circle of the story.
But what a good story.