Tuesday, November 17, 2009
A Serious Man
I don’t know how many goyim attended the Coen brothers latest release, A Serious Man, but there were plenty of movie-goers laughing at stuff that this goy didn’t find funny. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing (if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand). I gave the Coen’s last two movies (Burn After Reading and No Country For Old Men) Five Stars each. A Serious Man reminded me more of The Ladykillers, which I was less enamored by.
A Serious Man begins with a short scene that introduces us to a family curse. The credits follow, before introducing us to Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a 1960s professor whose luck seems to be a product of the introductory scene. This luck appears to apply to his jobless, homeless brother Arthur (Richard Kind) and most likely passed to his son Danny (Aaron Wolff). The family dysfunction becomes the heart of glib ruminations into every aspect of Gopnik’s life. Attempts to prevent Gopnik’s tenure at his school, a scary neighbor who ignores the property line between their houses and children who view him only as the source of filched money or adjusted television reception. But the worst of it is Larry’s wife, Judith (Sari Lennick) who has decided that she wants a “get” (a traditional Jewish divorce) so that she can marry Larry’s friend, Sy Abelman (Fred Melamed).
A Serious Man lacks a concrete plot, concentrating more on the characters and their interactions while leaving the ending open to interpretation. The concept of this film appeared to be a family curse that we witnessed being manifested on a later generation. The troubles are sometimes trivial, like the property line issue, but the Coen’s seek every opportunity to exploit the effete main character. The subdued comic elements were woven throughout the script seizing every opportunity to elicit laughter. Some of the humor seemed awkward. The audience erupted following the death of a character, puzzling me. I understood the essence of the scene, but didn’t find it amusing. I laughed several times, but much of the humor was shallow and cliché. The characters were quirky and interesting. I enjoyed many exchanges between them.
I am not familiar with Michael Stuhlbarg, but found his performance to be engaging. I liked the way he schlepped along in the film while appearing earnest in his struggles. I wanted his luck to change. I cared less for Kind’s performance, but it was more the role he played. His character irritated me, making it difficult for me to enjoy his performance. Melamed was captivating, bringing a quirky comedic presence to his character that was subtle and enjoyable. Aaron Wolff was also enjoyable as the son. His facial expressions were often more compelling than the script. The cast was not very familiar to me, but did a fine job.
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