Okay so maybe I don’t know what Christmas movies are but I’m Jewish so give me a break. The two movies that make me think of Christmas the most OR encapsulate how I feel about Christmas are “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “All That Heaven Allows.” Allow me to explain.
Every year I feel like more and more of a failure. No movie quite captures that like “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Not very in the Christmas mood but Christmas makes everyone think about the year past and the years that have passed before. For me, that’s almost never a good thing. We only see a week in Llewyn’s life but we get that most weeks in his life are like that. Get drunk and make a fool out of yourself and maybe face the consequences the next day. It’s not living, it is surviving. Even before this year where the mantra is “We made it’’ I’ve always felt like that in December.
There’s a scene that always sticks with me when I think about the movie. Llewyn just played in front of a well-known owner of an establishment in Chicago. He gets told he should get back together with his partner that killed himself. We see him trudge away through a big patch of snow. Except just to the left and right of that giant patch of snow is a completely clear walkway. That’s ultimately what this movie is all about. For people like us, we try our best and probably fail just to trudge through some snow that is very easily escapable, and we do it again and again. But hey, at least we get to go eat Tabouli salad with some friends at some point, and someone will give you a break and give you an opportunity somewhere down the line.
So maybe the struggle is worth it. That’s why “Inside Llewyn Davis” reminds me of Christmas. It’s brutal to get through every week of your life 52 times a year, but damn does that Tabouli salad and bed feel good some nights. Not literally of course.
There are two filmmakers I find incredibly difficult to write about and one of them is Douglas Sirk. He makes these pretty specific feelings I have and puts them on a full technicolor display. Sometimes, the holidays make me feel trapped and I think of the scene where Wynman gets a TV for Christmas. Gifts from your loved ones always are great unless they make you think about everything you’ve given up to be where you are today. She’s told that just a turn of the dial will give her all the company she would ever want. Drama and comedy all at her fingertips except its not actually comedy or drama. It’s a facsimile of a life worth living.
I remember being in film school and watching “All That Heaven Allows.” It was fall and I distinctly remember everyone in the class, about thirty or forty, thinking it was a comedy. I wrote a very impassioned plea that this movie was not a comedy, but instead a beautiful drama about finding out who we are with the help and love of another. This is the movie that helped me realize how much I wanted to be a film critic or theorist. I’ll talk about the movie again in a second. I just love talking about myself.
Early in their relationship, Rock Hudson takes Jane Wynman to his friend’s house for dinner. We learn that Rock Hudson never read Walden but instead lives it. We cut to the party and it’s more than just the two couples it seems to be people from all over the community. People are dancing, Hudson is playing the piano, and everyone is happy!
The older I get this is all I want out of Christmas.
As I’m finishing my thoughts it’s the dawn of a new year and my feelings towards the holidays are beginning to reset. I tend to always look back at these times with at least a modicum of happiness which makes my feelings for them all the more confusing. “Inside Llewyn Davis” captures my feelings of trudging through snow and “All That Heaven Allows” captures the way I feel trapped by a life that I very much like.
Happy New Year folks.