18
Oct
2009
Review: A Serious Man
A Serious Man
Sam
The Coen brothers just can't seem to help themselves. It is getting to the point where it is just common knowledge whatever moves from their minds to celluloid is gold. A Serious Man is no different.

The story starts out ominously enough with an old jewish story involving possible ghosts of rabbis. What does this have to do with a 1960's jewish professor having almost every bad thing happen to him at the same time? Well, it could mean a number of things. But to illustrate what it can mean the Coen's show us the film.
The plot of the movie is the bad-to-worse scenario audiences have seen in their previous films like No Country for Old Men and Fargo. Professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is having a crisis. He is being bribed by a student to increase his grades, his shut-in brother is staying at his house, he may not get tenure, his son is prepping for his Bar Mitzvah and his wife is divorcing him. So Larry does what any good Jew would do and goes to his rabbis.

Without revealing anything pertinent to the plot, Larry questions his faith and the film starts to look like one of the stories his rabbi would tell him to calm him down. This is just one layer to a film that is dripping with understated humor on being Jewish and feeling as though the world is coming down on top of you. Stuhlbarg portrays Gopnik with the perfect amount of despair mixed with desperation. The Coens surround their leading man with an excellent supporting cast that includes Richard Kind as his genius and socially stunted brother and Fred Malamed as the man Larry's wife is leaving him for.

The Coens establish a brilliant rhythm throughout the film that makes their astounding trailer for the movie seem all the more relevant. There is a pattern to how problems are brought to Larry throughout the film that is just subtle enough to make the audience feel as though we are struggling to go through the weeks just as Larry is.

The writing in the film is at times earth shatteringly sad, yet the Coens manage to find a way to make the worst situations unbelievably funny. The pairing of this cast with the brilliant screen play was a match made in heaven as Stuhlbarg and Melamed are set up to be major contenders for best actor and best supporting actor respectively. There's even an argument to be made for Richard Kinds performance which is both sad and comical.

The amount happening in simultaneously in A Serious Man is, to be honest, too difficult to completely recount after one viewing. But, in short, the film deals with faith, Judaism itself, growing up and looking to break out of your life. The Coen's have somehow done it again. A Serious Man looks like a serious Oscar contender.

A
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