A Serious Man

 RATED-(R)-106 MIN-2009

 

 

The Coen brothers continue to make challenging films, and you have to give these two credit for not compromising in an industry that is riddled with studio interference, when it comes the filmmaker's vision and what ends up on screen in the final product. In the end, they have made some of the most intelligent, entertaining ,and best movies of the last 30 years.(A Serious Man), is a film that is closer to home for them, as it is set in a Minneapolis suburb like the one they grew up in, and tells the story of a Jewish family and the troubles that besiege them; particularly, the father, Larry Gopnik (a pitch perfect performance by the stage actor Michael Stuhlbarg).He's like a younger David Paymer.

A take of sorts on the story of Job from the bible, A Serious Man starts with an old fable about a polish couple that mistakenly invite a possible Dybbuk, (possessed person).Supposedly cursed now, maybe somehow, this event in the past is connected to poor Larry and what happens to him next. It is a very funny scene, although I'm not quite sure how it is connected.

Larry is a Physics teacher  at a local college. He is married and has two children; both of them teenagers. The son( a wonderful Aaron Wolf) is about to have his bar mitzvah. Larry is awaiting tenure at the college, and he believes he is a righteous and good man; he is. Problem is, Larry's life is not what he perceives. He is hanging by a thread and his world is about to go down the shitter big time.

 

The Coen's are masters of getting people on screen who have a quirky look, and then matching them with funny and absurd dialogue that fit's. Think of the hookers in Fargo, the Asian man who hits on Marge, the entire movie of their brilliant film: (the Big Lebowski), or the store owner who is close to death in No Country for Old Men, but too dumb to know. I could go on and on, but you get the point. A Serious Man is riddled with these kind of wonderful characters, and it is painfully funny at times. The Coens go inward to their roots this time, and it is a frigging hoot. The riddles of religion, culture, and rituals are front and center in this movie. If you are sensitive to these type of things, may I suggest you not take yourself too serious (no pun intended),or watch something else.Joel and Ethan do not suffer fools lightly. The one thing that is certain in this film is that Larry is truly a good man; you will like him very much, and he is about to get screwed by just about everyone around him.

His neighbor is a racist who keeps mowing part of his lawn in an attempt to somehow remark his property for a new structure he is building. His daughter wants a nose job, and constantly fights with her brother Danny, who smokes a lot of pot, and seems only interested in making sure F-troop comes in on the TV, and not study the Torah. His brother-in-law sleeps on his couch, writes riddles in a notebook, and hogs the bathroom as he drains a cyst on his neck all the time.

Wait, there’s more…An Asian student who failed a final is trying to bribe him, and his wife is leaving him for a complete putz, who wants Larry to move out of the house so he can move in.Someone is writing anonymous letters to the tenure board about him, and his hot neighbor nude sunbathes. It’s like a long Woody Allen joke from his brilliant stand up years….if you haven’t heard them; you should.

What should Larry do? What would you do? He is advised to go see his Rabbi for counsel. He wants to talk to the senior Rabbi Marshak, who is apparently too busy to see him.So instead, prefaced with the foreboding text onscreen: The First Rabbi, he sees a very young man, Rabbi Scott (Simon Helberg), and he proceeds to spout useless generic advice that just frustrates Larry more. He wants answers from God, and it becomes increasingly obvious that all of his spiritual leaders also don’t have an clue. In the end, “Meh, It is what it is.”

One of the running gags in the film is, that none of the Rabbis that Larry sees knows what a “get” is. It is a divorce document in Jewish law. I didn’t know either, but I’m not a Rabbi. His visits with his lawyers are possibly even funnier, as each person he speaks to seeking any kind of advice, gives him more reasons for worry. How much can one man take? Why would God do this? Do the Coens have any answers? Many people found the ending of (No Country For Old Men frustrating); I loved it. If you want resolution in a film, this one might piss you off too; but that is the point of this movie; there is no big answer. How about this?

How smart are the Coens?…they set you up. When the famously elusive Rabbi Marshak meets Danny after reading from the Torah perfectly…stoned, the old man surprises you with his simple and good wisdom; something not heard from most in this movie that you should see.

Wonderful filmmakers these brothers are.

 

Watch the trailer:http://youtu.be/92IMQbcHGwE