PopEntertainment.com

It's all the entertainment you need!

 

FEATURE STORIES MOVIE REVIEWS MUSIC REVIEWS BOX SET REVIEWS TV SHOWS ON DVD CONTESTS CONCERT PHOTOS

 

 

  FEATURE STORIES
  INTERVIEWS A TO E
  INTERVIEWS F TO J
  INTERVIEWS K TO O
  INTERVIEWS P TO T
  INTERVIEWS U TO Z
  INTERVIEWS ACTORS
  INTERVIEWS ACTRESSES
  INTERVIEWS BOOKS
  INTERVIEWS DIRECTORS AND SCREENWRITERS
  INTERVIEWS MUSIC
  INTERVIEWS OSCAR NOMINEES
  INTERVIEWS THEATER
  IN MEMORIAM
  REVIEWS
  MOVIE REVIEWS
  MUSIC REVIEWS
  CONCERT REVIEWS
  BOX SET REPORT CARD
  TV SHOWS ON DVD
  MISCELLANEOUS STUFF & NONSENSE
  CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY
  LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
  CONTESTS
  LINKS
  MASTHEAD
  EMAIL US

"WILD YEARS-THE MUSIC & MYTH OF TOM WAITS" BY JAY S. JACOBS

AVAILABLE IN BOOK STORES EVERYWHERE!

 

www.wbshop.com

PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > A Serious Man

MOVIE REVIEWS

A SERIOUS MAN (2009)

Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Sari Lennick, Adam Arkin, Amy Landecker, Alan Mandell, Fyvush Finkel, Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson, Peter Breitmayer. Brent Braunschweig, Simon Helberg, David Kang, Aaron Wolff, Jessica McManus, Ari Hoptman, Michael Tezl, George Wyner and Michael Lerner.

Screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Distributed by Focus Features.  105 minutes.  Rated R.

 

Everyday Beautiful

125X125

A Serious Man 

The films of Joel and Ethan Coen have been described in many ways in the twenty-some years that the acclaimed brothers have been filming their quirky artistic visions - but rarely, if ever, have they been called heartfelt and personal.

A Serious Man may be somewhat groundbreaking in that manner.

Not to say that the film isn't filled with the traditional Coen quirks and oddball circumstances.  It is.  However, this film, based loosely on their life growing up Jewish in the suburbs of Minnesota in the late 60s, seems to resonate for the brothers even more than most of their movies. 

I do not believe that A Serious Man could be exactly called autobiographical, I just believe that the Coens are in a place that they know well and the affection and wistful sadness for the people and the place shine through in this quiet and thoughtful, yet undeniably funny film.

Unlike recent Coen films with the all-star likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, the most well-known actors here are better known as TV actors - Richard Kind (Spin City), Adam Arkin (Chicago Hope), Fyvush Finkel (Picket Fences) and Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory).  All of these actors are here in supporting roles.

The heavy lifting for the film goes to Michael Stuhlbarg - who is very well-known in New York theater circles but has never before had a lead role in a film.  It is a terrific role and will hopefully catapult Stuhlbarg into more film work.  He currently is filming a role as legendary gambler Arnold Rothstein in an upcoming Martin Scorsese series for HBO.

Here Stuhlbarg plays Larry Gopnik, a quiet and shy physics professor whose life is suddenly falling apart.  He is up for tenure review in his university when he suddenly falls victim to an anonymous letter-writing campaign.  Another student is concurrently trying to bribe Larry for a better grade and sue him for defamation because he has suggested the student is offering a bribe.  His new next-door neighbors are redneck anti-Semites.  His brother is unemployed and living on the couch.  His son is getting ready for his bar-mitzvah, but he is more interested in rock music and drugs.  His daughter is stealing money from Larry to get a nose job.  His wife wants to leave him for an older, less attractive man.  She explains that unlike Larry, Sy is "a serious man" - a likable adult who has important thoughts, ideas and aspirations.  In the meantime, Larry is starting to have illicit fantasies about the married woman next door who has a tendency to sunbathe in the nude - however he is much too proper and shy to ever act on those urges.

Larry, who is a man of science, has a crisis of faith.  He goes to the local rabbis for wisdom and an answer to the basic question - why do bad things happen to good people?  The cryptic information he receives from his religious guides only confuses him more.  He becomes more and more desperate and disenchanted with his life. 

If the answers in life cannot be found through spiritual or logical means, can there really be any answers?

Even if this sounds like a heavy subject for a film, A Serious Man is actually one of the funniest of the Coens' works. 

Yes, sometimes it seems like the Coens are piling on Larry, but that's sort of the point.  Life is full of problems - not just the huge ones but little nagging problems which constantly test the human soul.  No amount of scientific scrutiny will bring any rhyme or reason to it, nor will living a good, humble life shelter you from it.  As Charles Bukowski once pointed out, it is not the major occurrences in life which drive a man insane.  It is a broken shoelace which happens at an inopportune time.

Yet the Coens preface the film with a quotation by a French rabbi named Rashi, "Receive with simplicity, everything that happens to you."

It is smart and sound advice, but very hard to actually put into practice when you are the one that these things are happening to.

There is no delicate way to put this - and this is in no way meant in a criticism, merely as an explanation - but this is the most "Jewish" film in quite a few years.  It looks at the people and the culture with both affection and occasional exasperation. 

There is even a brief prologue to the film - done completely in Yiddish - which does not really seem to have anything to do with the rest of the film, however it shares a point of view and a black humor with the story at large.

A Serious Man also reminds us that the 60s were not all hippies and love-ins.  The summer of love had not really filtered its way into the suburban world of this film.

Of course the film ends in an ambiguously bleak manner, in which it seems that life may have randomly dealt yet another blow to Larry just when he finally thinks that everything has fallen into its right place.

Which also makes this the Coen Brothers' most realistic film.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 25, 2009.

RETURN TO MOVIE REVIEWS MENU

LinkShare  Referral  Program

 Shop Aeropostale

Copyright 2009   PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 25, 2009.

 

Enter Gotham City with Batman Costumes from Spirit Halloween! Protect or destroy the city as Batgirl, Robin, or the Joker. Shop now!