We’re sitting at the bar talking about Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brother’s latest movie, nominated at last night’s Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture in the comedy/musical category. In my opinion, it’s a small and quiet film, and one that I liked in a measure it demanded — in a small and quiet way. But, despite critical acclaim pointing towards the contrary, I found Inside Llewyn Davis to be almost too small, so subtle and nuanced that its miniature details might sing in a different medium, a moralizing short story, perhaps, one filled with brooding internal dialogue, foreshadowing, and occasionally unrealistic coincidences that stretch the truth towards parable.
And so I say this to my friend, a man, nervous I’ll be judged for not drinking the Coen Kool-Aid carte blanche. After all, it’s not that I don’t get it – “it” being the dark humor that is the Coen brothers’ forte, that unmistakable brand of ennui. It’s just that I didn’t think it necessarily needed to be a full-length feature. And so, my friend’s response made an effort to explain why perhaps it didn’t resonate with me in the same way it might resonate with, say, a dude.
“It’s a guy’s movie,” he offers. I look down towards a sea of overturned oysters resting on crushed ice, trying to figure out how to argue my way through this, to communicate something to the effect of my ability (as a woman) to thoroughly enjoy the Hurt Locker, but detest Transformers, both of which I would general consider to live under the banner of “Guy Movie.”
“He’s just a certain type of guy, on a journey particular to a man,” he continues, going onto explain what was going on at the time the movie took place, particularly in folk music, and how Llewyn Davis, as a character, would have been in a sea of male competitors, with maybe a handful of females. “There just really weren’t that many women doing it,” my friend says, and then he singles out Joan Baez.
“That’s depressing,” I say, but I am unable to articulate further. My friend isn’t necessarily wrong, though I would argue that often I relate more to the trials of men than the trivialities of women. And he’s correct in stating that there are some paths that men and women are incapable of sharing, where there is no common ground. But this story, the one about Llewyn Davis and his relentless bumping up against the glass ceiling of his ambition, largely on account of his own horrible attitude, I – and many other women — could totally relate to. That feeling of just wanting someone to give you a chance, a confidence in your talent, a incomprehensible disappointment at your own failure: men, women, everybody gets that. Because these are the things you’ll come across when you’re trying to make something of your life, this is a path that is, or at least can be, universally shared. But it’s not – at least according to my friend.
Surely women are taking these journeys — these impossible reaches towards difficult stars. There are women out there with stories just like Llewyn Davis. And I want those women – sour, hardened, relentless as they may be — depicted more often in cinema, if no other reason to add another title to the “Strong Female Lead” in my Netflix queue. Because that’s the part every girl should want in the movie of her life. At least I think so.