Falling Victim to Professionalism

Inside Llewyn Davis is a Coen Brothers film released in 2013 about a folk singer in New York City during the 1960’s who struggles to make it in the business. Llewyn used to be a part of a folk duo, however his partner committed suicide years before the time period in the movie. Llewyn refuses to let this stop him, and continues as a solo artist, even though many people throughout the film say his voice would work better with a compliment. At this time, folk music had not really become very popular yet and Llewyn struggles to find work. He plays at small bars for maybe 20 people and makes about $80 a week. Obviously this is not enough to even pay a month’s rent so he is homeless and relies on his friends’ houses for shelter. He stays at various different apartments throughout the city. Llewyn is a very stubborn and proud character that refuses to pick up another job or sell out to a major record label. He is determined to do what he loves and will not settle for anything less. At one point in the film, Llewyn does sell out briefly to record a pop song with another musician he knows because he needs money to pay for an abortion, which was illegal at the time so it was very pricey. They record a song called, “Please Mr. Kennedy” and Llewyn makes a quick check from it, even though he absolutely hated the song, which was nothing like his style of music. This was an act of desperation by Llewyn and something he regretted morally. He later finds out that the song has become a big hit and if he had signed for royalties, he would have made a great deal of money. This leaves him conflicted because he knows that he could pursue this kind of music and be successful, but it’s exactly what he told himself he would never resort to. Here, Llewyn goes against the ideology of professionalism in that he refuses to do what society says he should do and get a job that pays well. He would rather live in poverty trying to make it in folk music than make money doing something he despises.
Llewyn has sent his record to multiple record labels around the country but hasn’t heard back from any, so he decides to make a trip to Chicago to deliver it himself. He plans to hitchhike from New York to Chicago and luckily he finds someone willing to take him there. It just so happens that the car he ends up in is taking another musician, played by John Goodman, across the country for a gig. This man, however, is a jazz musician and he has been able to make a living making music. He has a steady income and dresses in classy clothes, however he abuses drugs and lives an overall miserable life. Although this man is unhappy, Llewyn aspires to achieve this sort of success in the music that he performs. On the other side of the spectrum, the driver is a failed actor who chose to pick up this job as a driver to make a living. Like Llewyn, he is a struggling artist who can’t seem to make ends meet as an actor, so he resorts to another job to make money. This man falls victim to professionalism. He does not aspire to be a driver. He realizes that, based on the economic structure of society and how difficult it is to make it as an actor, he needed to pick up a job doing something that he hates in order to survive. Llewyn refuses to fall victim to professionalism like this man and stays steadfast in his quest to become a successful folk musician. This car ride was very interesting because it showed Llewyn both sides of the spectrum.

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