A Serious Man

It's a real shame that this film didn't get a wide release back in theaters, because it's probably one of the Coen brothers' best films to date. I mean, I really don't get it - No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading got so much hype/acclaim that it's hard to believe that the Coens were forced to release their latest picture in a limited release. The initial release aside, A Serious Man might also be the Coen's bleakest film, as the the whole movie feels like a very loose retelling of the Book of Job from the Bible.

It's 1967, and our protagonist - Larry Gopnik - is a Jewish physics professor whose life is collapsing all around him. His wife has been having an affair with a colleague and wants to divorce him, his kids don't really care about family, there's a chance he might not receive tenure for his job, and he's getting kicked out of his own home. Things aren't really looking up for Larry. Being of the Jewish faith, Larry can only ask his rabbis - as well as God Himself - why this is happening to him.

It's not necessarily an "entertaining" film, as it is one that captures our attention. Not much happens plot-wise, but it's the characters and the questions raised that make this film so great. We feel for Larry and what's happening to him, and the way things unfold for the characters are all executed in the Coen brothers' style of unpredictability.

I also enjoyed how ambiguous the film was about the existence of God. A lot of films do this, so it wasn't extraordinary or new, but the way it was executed was just admirable. For instance, the scene with Larry talking with the Jr. Rabbi was really sitting on that fine line. One could just as easily pull out a theistic theme out of that scene as they could an atheistic theme. This is prevalent throughout the film, particularly during the rabbi scenes. Are these perils a test of Larry's faithfulness to God? Or are they just random occurrences in an empty universe? "Answers" are never given by the film - it just presents you with the information and leaves the viewer to think about it.

The soundtrack and visuals were also quite strong. While there was never really a stand-out visual scene, save perhaps the ending, the film had a nice post-war look about it. Everything looked sleek and neat, with this crisp-picture quality. The soundtrack also indicates where Larry's world is going, with groups like Jefferson Airplane being mentioned quite frequently.

If I had any problems with the film, it was the story of the son's saga. Larry's story is deep and leaves you pondering, while the scenes with his son - arguably the other main character - just weren't as thematically satisfying. I mean, things still came to an interesting yet bleak ending for both stories, but the son's story never becomes thoughtful until the last thirty minutes. The pace of the film was also quite nice, though I thought it could be a tad slow sometimes.

It's got a few minor blemishes, but A Serious Man is a thought-provoking, bleak, and interesting film by the Coen brothers.

8.5/10 - Great





Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

callie15 said...
Jun. 25, 2011 at 3:35 pm
wow, great review! the details and your personal opinions make this review not only convincing, but entertaining to read. i'm going to go watch it right now; i like a good thought-provoker :)
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback